Islamophobia and Education
- Rahat ZaidiRahat ZaidiUniversity of Calgary
Islamophobia is a term used to describe society’s phobic reaction to a certain religious or ideological group. Historically, the coined word Islamophobia has been manipulated into various constructs, which pose a microcosm-macrocosm challenge for educators over whether or not the education system can act as a platform for better understanding what is currently transpiring in the world. It is in the classroom that educators and students can grapple with the sociophobic situation and pull apart the two sides of Islam and phobia. In the classroom there are learning opportunities that can foster critical new understandings about why social phobias exist and challenge, through an antiphobic curriculum, the fear and indifference of otherness. New and higher levels of immigration in the Western world, rising tensions in non-Muslim populations, and the baggage of history have brought us to a critical turning point. Educators can respond positively and constructively to this challenge and opportunity and help to steer the course. Although Islamophobia is present in many countries worldwide, assimilationist policies vary from country to country. Nonetheless, individual countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Australia, and in those in Western Europe, have their own takes on Islamophobia. Since 9/11 there has been significant agreement among scholars that societal changes can be constructed through the systematic employment of specific curricular initiatives. These initiatives call into question the traditional trajectory of how the sentiments of Islamophobia can be successfully countered in the classroom to reduce sociophobic tensions and increase cultural and linguistic awareness. This can happen through culturally sustaining pedagogy, whose primary objective is to embrace literate, linguistic, and cultural pluralism in the school system. Education has tremendous power to challenge phobic perspectives and move beyond the traditional realm of what has historically been the norm in the classroom.