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Edmonton's Muslim communities call for more inclusive spaces for Black Muslims


Sunday January 29, 2023

 

A report released Monday details the racism faced by Black Muslims in Edmonton and put forth recommendations to improve inclusivity. (Dave Bajer/CBC - image credit)

A team of Muslim community members in Edmonton are working to address racism in faith spaces.

The Anti-Racism Muslim Collaborative (AMC) conducted community engagement to better understand anti-Black racism to resolve the issue.

Hanan Attitalla, education coordinator with the advocacy group John Humphrey for Peace and Human Rights, facilitated the project and said anti-Black racism "is rampant in most spaces in our city."

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"It's validating to know that these concerns are shared across our sisterhoods, your brotherhoods, that we all share these experiences ... it's not me being overly sensitive," Attitalla said.

"But it's not something that's just in Muslim spaces, it's everywhere."

AMC released a report based on the community engagement sessions noting areas of improvement to make Muslim spaces more inclusive, safe and welcoming for Black Muslims.

Some issues the report identified include the lack of spaces for Black people in Muslim communities, inclusivity for non-Arabic speaking Muslims and representation in Muslim leadership.

Black Muslims, most notably women, have been targets of hate-based violence and racist attacks in recent years.

Police-reported hate crimes against Muslim people in Canada rose from 84 incidents in 2020, to 144 incidents in 2021, Statistics Canada data shows.

The 23-page report identifies solutions to the issues community members say they face.

During the community sessions conducted to create the report and its data, participants were asked which Muslim spaces in Edmonton are perceived as the least inclusive or safe for Black Muslims.

The most common answers included the Edmonton Islamic Academy and Al Rashid Mosque.

Noor Al-Henedy, spokesperson for Edmonton Islamic Academy and Al Rashid Mosque, said both groups identified the issue of anti-Black racism and lack of inclusivity nearly four years ago which sparked their participation in the report.

Al Rashid Mosque hosts anywhere from 2,000 people for Friday prayer to 15,000 members during Eid, Al-Henedy said.

"Our spaces are meant to be a safe space for everybody," she said.

"So we took the concerns that came to us very seriously and we were very adamant to make changes within our structure, within the mosque, and the school to ensure that proper representation is there."

Report participants acknowledged organizations who are doing work to address racism against Black Muslims such as Black Women United, Sahaba Mosque and the Canadian Somali Association.

Report recommendations include encouraging open discussion about racism, ensuring there is adequate translation at Friday prayer for non-Arabic speaking Muslims and understanding how colonialism impacts the existing spaces.

Irfan Chaudhry, director of the office of human rights, diversity, and equity at MacEwan University, said Black Muslims have repeatedly been excluded from Islamic places.

"I think [the report] does highlight both the real and perceived layers of bias and discrimination toward the Black Muslim community," Chaudhry said.

He said between his work and lived experience as a Muslim, he has seen Black Muslims excluded from places of worship but has also seen the Muslim community become more receptive to change.

The Muslim population in Edmonton is diverse, with many coming from East African and non-Arabic speaking countries, Chaudhry said.

"Some of these mosques have been established through previous generational influence where they're limited to be as welcoming or inviting as they could be," Chaudhry said about how immigration patterns were a factor but have evolved over time.

"Black Muslim mosques have been opening in and around Edmonton, but also ... trying to carve their own space," Chaudhry said.

"Versus trying to be actively included into some of the existing dominant spaces that are there."

Attitalla said the report has been widely shared within Muslim communities to improve the atmosphere for Black Muslims which she said has been received positively.



 





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