The official launch of the Muslim Faculty and Staff Community Network kicked off yesterday, gathering self-identifying Muslims together in a safe space to create dialogue about Muslims, Islamophobia and community inclusion.
Co-founder Sarah Bukhari said that after a year in the making, the network has goals of coming together to heal, offer solutions, make friends in professional and personal networks and celebrate Muslim life.
Vice-president of equity, community and inclusion, Denise O’Neil Green, addressed the room, noting how appreciated Muslims already are on Ryerson campus.
“After we heard from a number of people who were seeking safe spaces to talk, convene, commune, gather and share experiences with like-minded friends, whether as students, staff or faculty, Muslim Canadians add a richness to our campus and our valued members of the culture here at Ryerson,” said O’Neil Green.
Since this is just the start of the Muslim Faculty and Staff Community Network, Bukhari said that they don’t know what a safe space will look like for this group yet, but they will work towards what that safe space means.
“Creating a safe community is a significant goal for us. Since right now, it is only myself and Sakeena Mihar, who is co-chair of the community, having more people will help things move forward,” said Bukhari.
Ryerson International’s assistant vice-president, Anver Saloojee, was a guest speaker who talked about what it means to be Muslim.
“To be a Muslim it means to be proud but to be watchful where you are and where you go. It is a collective effort to promote a society that is inclusive and a campus and workplace that is inclusive,” Saloojee said.
Saloojee also talked about the negatives of what it means to identify as Muslim.
“It really means trying not to travel near the United States as much as possible, and in fact not going at all,” said Saloojee.
Last year’s Quebec mosque shooting was brought up as a reminder that Islamophobia does exist, and is still very real in the minds of Muslims.
“As we celebrate the launch of the Muslim Community Network, we are still very keenly aware of the importance as to why this network is needed. Just over a few weeks ago, we were all reminded about what happened over a year ago to Muslim Canadians who were killed in Quebec. That shooting shocked and scared so many of us,” said O’Neil Green.
Mihar said to those running the event, the network means creating an environment for healthy debate. They want to strike up conversation and challenge those who think poorly of Muslims but also embrace it.
“The next step is to connect with more people and more volunteers and get them more involved, and do some programming around how to mentor around topics of Islamophobia where people can feel safe,” said Mihar.