۲۹ مهر ۱۴۰۰ |۱۴ ربیع‌الاول ۱۴۴۳ | Oct 21, 2021
News Code: 359565
23 December 2019 - 20:08
Bringing Jews and Muslims together at York University

Recently I decided to step out of my comfort zone to offer a course that would explore both the Jewish and Muslim experiences in Canada. Teaching “anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in Canada” was a more rewarding experience than I could have imagined.

Hawzah News Agency -  (York - Canada) - As a sociologist focusing on the study of contemporary Jewish life in North America, I have been teaching a variety of Jewish Studies courses at York University for the last 15 years.

Recently I decided to step out of my comfort zone to offer a course that would explore both the Jewish and Muslim experiences in Canada. Teaching “anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in Canada” was a more rewarding experience than I could have imagined.

It seemed reasonable to me to combine these two forms of oppression in one course. There are many parallels. Both groups are small minorities in Canada who are facing significant increases in hate crimes over the last few years. Guest speakers from both B’nai Brith Canada and the National Council of Canadian Muslims added important voices to our class discussions. My 30 students were Muslim, Jewish and others.

Although there were a number of themes I explored in the course (Bill 21 in Quebec, Holocaust denial, gendered Islamophobia, online hate, among others), on Nov. 20 the topic was campus activism around the Israel/Palestine conflict. How should an instructor approach this subject? How does one deal with the elephant in the room? My approach was, to the best of my abilities, to confront the elephant. Tensions were not to be avoided and ignored, but encountered and discussed.

We began at the beginning: what is BDS (the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement)? What is Israel Apartheid Week? One may be surprised that many students (Muslims, Jews and others) have never heard of it. Why do some consider BDS to be antisemitic? Why do others, not? Why is this a contentious issue on campus? Many do not know.

I informed my students that I could sense that a volatile event was going to happen that evening at York University. Indeed, as we witnessed, there was a very divisive protest and counterprotest in Vari Hall concerning a campus talk by Israeli reservists. The controversial incident garnered international attention and much has been written about it from multiple perspectives.

The following week in class we were able to reflect on what happened from an informed point of view, understanding the motivations of the different actors involved. In this way students were encouraged to develop their own narratives and draw their own conclusions.

One of the key objectives in the class was to facilitate face to face encounters between those who do not usually come into contact with each other; to foster an environment for honest discussion. This is an effective way for students to address conflict and tensions, which exist on campus and beyond. I was lucky to have had excellent students who were curious, open-minded and interested in listening and learning. Perhaps they were self-selected.

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