With the increase of tension between Muslim and non-Muslim students on campuses across Canada in the years following the War on Terror, interactions between the two groups are becoming increasingly difficult. Guest lecturer Moustafa Bayoumi is scheduled to speak on Oct. 20 at the University of Saskatchewan to incite open dialogue about these issues in order to begin to resolve them.
Due to the recent rise in media coverage of terrorist attacks and Islamophobia, many Muslim students at the U of S feel tension with other students, especially on social media.
Outside of media, however, Muslim students see a lack of the meaningful dialogue on Islamophobia that is needed in order for understanding and mutual respect to grow. Both the Ahmadiyya Muslin Students’ Association and the organizer of the lecture, Maurice Labelle are cultivating that dialogue.
“Conversations about the Middle East here on campus are important because, quite honestly, they haven’t been taking place,” Labelle said.
The lecture will be given by Moustafa Bayoumi, an English professor at the City University of New York. It is titled “How Does It Feel To Be A Problem? Being Muslim During The War On Terror,” and it will take place on Oct. 20 at 4 p.m. in the Biology building, room 106.
“I think … it’s a really provocative title. I think it’s particularly provocative because it encourages everyone, Muslims and non-Muslims, to engage with empathy,” Labelle said. “The title itself forces individuals, in some way, to try to put themselves in the shoes of those who are the subjects of discriminatory practices.”
Bayoumi has published two books, one of which shares the title of his upcoming lecture. This award-winning book, published in the aftermath of 9/11, focuses on how the lives of Muslim Americans changed after the War on Terror began.
Labelle believes that Bayoumi will inspire students to engage in this topic.
“[He] is a very energetic, very vibrant, very engaging award-winning author — a prominent public intellectual,” Labelle said.
Apart from this lecture, the AMSA is also working to promote discussion by hosting events in which meaningful dialogue is encouraged among students of all religions, allowing students to better relate to and respect each other.
Attique Khan, third-year business student and vice-president of the AMSA, explains the main goal of these events.
“We try to remove the misconception of what is promoted by Islam itself as opposed to what you see from terrorists on the screen,” Khan said.
Labelle thinks that the guest lecture will be a good place to start having this open dialogue.
“A lot of conversations need to take place, not just about the Middle East, but mostly about the misperceptions involved with how some of us here at the U of S, in Saskatoon and in Saskatchewan more broadly, perceive the Middle East,” Labelle said.
Labelle also believes that students at the U of S need to start dealing with these issues, and organizing this lecture is one way to begin the conversation.
“Bringing Moustafa’s energy and his personality makes for a really important discussion. This isn’t a talk about someone’s research; this is a talk about how we reconcile not only the past but the present, and how we grapple with ideas of difference. It’s a talk about trying to change how human beings think and how we interact with each other.”
Photo: Neville Elder / Supplied