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Nadeem Memon

Title: Express Yourself: Responding to Islamophobia Differently   

Session presenters: Nadeem Memon                                                       

Organization: OISE

Contact information: nmemon@oise.utoronto.ca

Brief description of workshop:

Post 9/11 young Muslims have found new ways of challenging media sensationalization, misrepresentation, and outright discrimination of Islam. Moving beyond the age old strategies of “awareness seminars” and “outreach programs” this workshop will highlight the strategies that young Muslims have employed to dynamically engage audiences about what Islam means to them through pop culture music and comedy.  Creating a space for self-expression through the creative arts can be a powerful teaching strategy to encourage social activism among students and challenge media stereotypes.   

Workshop goals:

  • To make a space for faith as an area of equity;
  • To provide a framework for equity that recognizes both the complexity of faith and its areas of controversial when faith and equity meet i.e. gender in particular;
  • To help educators understand the importance of faith consciousness as an identity marker for some students;
  • To prepare teachers for teaching controversial issues;
  • To provide a framework for teachers to challenge dogma with dissent that engenders critical thought;
  • To provide relevant, urban, and internet accessible popular culture related resources that can be used in classrooms activate student voice.

Strategies used:

  • Use of popular culture and forms of artistic expression to give educators an engaging method of incorporating such topics into curriculum.   

Two key resources that support our work:

Reel Bad Arabs: How the Media Vilifies a People. (2006). Media Education Foundation.  The video/documentary exhibits the numerous ways Arabs and Muslims have been stereotyped in Hollywood films.

Muslim Hip Hop. http://www.muslimhiphop.com   The website hosts a number of North American Muslim hip hop artists who use their music to address issues of discrimination that challenge Muslim identities. 

 Issues which we continue to struggle with in our own pursuits of educational activist goals:

  • How can faith traditions respond to areas of equity, namely homophobia, that directly conflict with most orthodox faith teachings?  Or how can one find common ground between Islamophobia and homophobia?
  • How can an educator address the complexity within a single faith tradition in reference to variance in practice, observance, and beliefs? 

“Big idea” that we want people to walk away with:

Educators need to move beyond “accommodating” the outward religious observances of faith-conscious students and move toward challenging and validating the faith based worldviews that shape the everyday realities of some students whose faith is an integral part of their identity. 

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