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'Chilly climate' greets Muslim university students: report

2007-03-21 14:49:50

Our Comments

This is quite alarming to hear but it's no surprise due to recent world events and the lack of activity in the Muslim community.
However, some of this is clearly racism and hate targeted to Islam and would likely occur regardless of world events.

Full Article:

'Chilly climate' greets Muslim university students: report

Last Updated: Wednesday, March 21, 2007 | 4:25 PM ET

Canadian universities are failing to accommodate the specific needs of Muslim students and are not doing enough to fix the "chilly climate" of discrimination they face, a report released Wednesday by a national students organization says.

The 29-page report is the culmination of hearings by a task force of the Canadian Federation of Students on the needs of Muslim students at universities across the country. It heard from nearly 1,000 students.

Many participants told the task force they felt "generally accepted and respected," but some cited incidents where they were the targets of overt acts of hate and discrimination.

There were reports of being called a terrorist and accused of being associated with the Taliban and of carrying a bomb, the report said.

The task force found that Muslim women dressed in hijab were more often targeted, likely since they were more easily identifiable as Muslim than men because of their clothes.

One said her friend dressed in the traditional headscarf was pushed into a busy street and called a "stupid Paki," while others reported being called "witches," "ninjas" and "nuns," the report says.

The task force also found that many Muslim students continue to feel "under the microscope" in a post-9/11 world, a feeling that is growing at some universities, the report said.

It cited specific incidents relating to news headlines over the past year, including the controversy over Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad and reports on activities by the Tamil Tigers.

One University of Toronto student had a flyer for a rally in support of Denmark in the cartoon controversy shoved at her in a washroom. The woman threw it out and was then told to "Go back to [your] f---ing country and bomb it."

A Pakistani students association at George Brown College was asked in an e-mail whether funds raised for earthquake relief were really for terrorist training, the report said.

Barriers to following religion

On top of acts of discrimination, the report also says students are finding it difficult to follow their religion because institutions fail to accommodate their needs.

Identified problems included Islamic holidays not recognized by universities, the lack of halal foods in cafeterias, and small, cramped prayer rooms.

Female students also complained of not being able to use pool or gym facilities because there were no women-only hours, or because windows made the classes visible to the public. Muslim women cannot take their hijab off in front of men.

Students also reported feeling "alienated" at orientations and social events that are often fuelled by alcohol.

Prayer rooms in many institutions were said to be too small, overcrowded or located in inconvenient spots, students told the task force. They also said many were forced to perform ablutions in public washrooms because their university didn't provide washing facilities by the prayer rooms.

"In the absence of prayer space, Muslim students who pray in stairwells or library carrels fear harassment and even assault," the report said.


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