Canada annually celebrates Islamic History Month in the whole month of October, and the focus this year is on sharing and healing from anti-indigenous racism and Islamophobia.
Students at the only Islamic high school in Windsor hope people would take time during Islamic Heritage Month to get to know Islam and the negative impact of Islamophobia on young people.
“I feel like not a lot of people are educated on Islam — there’s not a lot of good sources to find out about it — so having this month puts it in a positive light to learn,” said Sundus Hussein, a Grade 11 student, CBC reported.
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Hussein was particularly concerned with the rising Islamophobic attacks in the country after latest report on hate-crimes by Statistics Canada indicated a 9% increase in anti-Muslim attacks in 2019.
The murder of the Afzaal family in June also added to Muslim students’ concerns, seeing attacks a direct result of misrepresentation of Islam.
“There’s a lot of people who have Islamophobia and xenophobia toward Muslims,” grade 12 student Hamza Hamed said.
“I feel that in order for us to all become more educated and to learn more about Islam, it is important for us to have a month where people can learn and understand what Islam really is about.”
Being visibly Muslims, female students wearing hijab has a greater concern for their safety.
“I wish people would understand me for who I am and not judge me for my appearance first,” Nada Elfakharni, a 16-year-old student who wears a hijab said.
“I think my appearance, for some people, might be in a negative way. I think this month would help us be represented in a more positive way.”
More Work Needed
October was designated Islamic Heritage month by Parliament in 2007 to highlight the significant contributions of Muslim people in Canada.
Sadaf Khan, vice-principal at Windsor Islamic, believes more work is needed to back this initiative up.
“What’s the point of just making this month Canadian Islamic Heritage Month if you are not making people aware of this month? What is the significance of this month? Let people know.”
She put out a call to action to educate youth in Windsor.
“I would say to each and every person, every adult in Windsor’s society… please try to educate this generation about the diversity, which is really important.”
Back in 2007, honorable and departed, Mauril Belanger, MP, for Ottawa-Vanier proclaimed Islamic History Month in Canada (IHMC). The cities of Kingston, Burnaby, and the province of Manitoba also proclaimed the event.
Later on, IHMC became an independent body with a new Chair in 2013. The Board members are currently from Saskatoon, Regina, London, Ottawa, and Winnipeg.
In 2019, Toronto Mayor John Tory proclaimed October as Islamic Heritage Month, encouraging citizens to learn more about Islam and participate in activities hosted by the Muslim community.
The annual Islamic History Month provides a time to focus on celebrating and educating the Muslim and non-Muslim community on the rich history, heritage and culture of Canadian Muslims and Muslims around the world.