Our University of the Streets Café public conversations are much like any you’d have with friends or family around a dinner table, except with more people, more points of view, and slightly more structure. Conversations are hosted by a volunteer moderator who is there to welcome everyone and keep things on track. To get things started, there’s a guest, or sometimes two, who get the ball rolling by sharing their ideas, experiences and questions. After that, it's all up to the participants.
Islamophobia is alive and well in a city that likes to envision itself as among the most welcoming on Earth. At a time when we’re witnessing the impact of policies that arise from racist narratives, how can we call out the hateful overtones of the secularism discourse and challenge the impact it has on our communities? This public conversation considers the essential role of social inclusion at a local level in our efforts to combat the impacts of Islamophobia. How does exclusion undermine a person’s dignity and push them toward society’s margins? How can we recognize this racist injustice beyond blind platitudes and move towards concrete actions for partnership and protection?
Fatima Ahmad is a fourth year McGill student who studies in elementary education. Since she wears the niqab (face-veil), she was part of the legal challenge against Bill 62, and currently against Bill 21. Unfortunately, she has faced many Islamophobic incidents in the past, which has only increased after these bills were passed by governments. Due to the safety of religious minorities in this province, and because Bill 21 breaches the rights of religious minorities, she believes we all need to take a strong stance against it.
Jennifer Guyver is a PhD candidate in the School of Religious Studies at McGill University and research assistant for La Présence-Qi. Her fields of study are secularism in Québec, religion and human rights, and the philosophy of Charles Taylor. Her most recent publication, “Politics or Piety? Debating the meaning and function of religious symbols in Québec,” examines how politicians defined and framed the discussion of religious symbols during the parliamentary hearings for Québec’s Charter of Values.
Kat Ying recently holds a graduate degree in community economic development and is currently in her third year of law school. For many years, she has worked and volunteered with social enterprises and community-based projects. She hopes to continue working on a grass roots level to empower communities and promote social justice. She is honoured to join this conversation and talk about the legal aspects of Bill 21.
Since her early teens Nafija Rahman has been involved in community work. This passion started when she was with Les Scientifines. Being a woman, a visible minority and veiled she sees the need to give a voice to women from different backgrounds. She sees the need to open dialogue in our community for a more inclusive society. Identity and identifiers have been something she has been pondering on and in considering immigrant’s role in our society.
Accessibility: The space is wheelchair accessible, but the ramp to access the main door is quite long, and the elevator to reach the 2nd floor where the conversation is held, can be finicky. There are gender neutral washroom adjacent to the space where the conversation will be.