Conversations on Islam: Talks at University of Winnipeg to spread knowledge, banish myths

Conversations on Islam: Talks at University of Winnipeg to spread knowledge, banish myths

A University of Winnipeg religion professor says Winnipeg isn't immune to Islamophobia, but hopes he and others can disarm it at a panel discussion on the subject on Monday.

"Very simply put, I hope that if people can understand more about the Islamic tradition, historically and today, that we can sort of defuse some of these unfounded fears," said U of W professor William Dickson.

As part of the U of W event called Conversations on Islam and Islamophobia, Dickson will sit on the panel exploring sources and manifestations of Islamophobia along with possible responses.

Also on the panel will be Sumera Sahar of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women. Sahar said she'll share her experience of anti-Muslim sentiment and how it has impacted her family in Winnipeg.

"We are monolithically categorized," Sahar said of being Muslim in Manitoba. "People who are from within the Muslim community know very well how diverse this community is in terms of ethnicity, in terms of thought, in terms of practice, and that's never really brought forward to the wider public, right?"

Defining the term

Dickson said one barrier to understanding the phenomenon is that the term is applied too broadly. Islamophobia is not, for instance, synonymous with criticism of or disagreement with Islam, he said.

"Islamophobia is a very particular kind of fear and hostility towards Islam and Muslims that is unfounded," Dickson said. "It's not based on actual beliefs and events, it's based on moreso projected or imagined beliefs that all Muslims hold and a generalized fear and hostility towards [non-Muslims]."

The panel discussion will begin at 12:30 p.m. at the U of W. It will be followed by a 6 p.m. keynote delivered by Amarnath Amarasingam, a research fellow at George Washington University, on Canadians fighting for ISIS.