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Education against prejudice

Queen’s history department launches new course designed to educate on the topic of Islamophobia.

Queen’s Department of History has introduced a new course that brings the topics of discrimination and violence against Muslims to the forefront.

Islamophobia: From the Crusaders to Donald Trump is a two-term course that explores the history of Islam as a religion and the diversity of Muslim communities world-wide while tracing the lineages of Western prejudices.

“We at Queen’s are pioneers in this area of pedagogy,” says Ariel Salzmann (History), who is co-teaching the course with fellow history professor Adnan Husain. “We are providing students the information they need to speak with authority on these topics. Islam is the second largest religion in the world but it’s often misunderstood. We are working to clear up that misunderstanding.”

Students enrolled in Islamophobia: From the Crusaders to Donald Trump are challenging their own stereotypes and learning about Islam.

The students enrolled in the course have diverse backgrounds, are different ages, and come from different parts of the world, which often lends itself to well-rounded conversations and debates. .

“I only knew about this topic from a European perspective,” says German student Alessa Heimburger (ArtSci’18). “This topic is very prevalent in Europe right now but I’ve never even read the Qur’an. I’m trying to educate myself.”

The course traces the roots of the relationship between the West and the Muslim world. It provides students with a basic understanding of Islam and allows them to debate various aspects of the culture and religion.

“This course fills a gap in my education,” says Doug Brewer (ArtSci’18), who drives in from Brockville to take the course. “As a mature adult, I bring different memories to this class like 9/11. I remember my feelings that day, how it affected me. I’m able to discuss that in this class.”

Dr. Husain says the Tuesday class features lectures on the historical topics, from the first Muslim-ruled states in the Middle East to modern Muslim communities in Europe and North America. The Thursday class allows students to engage in discussion and debate. Students will often address what they are seeing in the media or discuss their own ideas of Islam.

“We look at all areas including racism against migrants, religious bigotry, and preconceptions about gender roles. We also talk to the students about their own stereotypes before starting each lesson and work to break those down. That’s the only way things will get better.”

Building on this course, Drs. Salzmann and Husain, who launched the Muslim Societies, Global Perspectives Initiative will take part in a public panel discussing Building Solidarities, Compating Islamophobia on Thursday, October 27, as part of Islamic History Month. Imam Yasin Dwyer of the Queen’s Chaplaincy and Imam Sheharyar Shaikh of the Islamic Society of Kingston will also be in attendance and will take part in the discussion. The event will take place in Stirling Hall A starting at 7 pm. For information visit the website.

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