By Jayden Dill

A little over two years ago, a man drove his pickup truck into a Muslim family out for an evening stroll in London, Ontario, killing four and leaving a nine-year-old boy orphaned. 

The devastating attack that turned a sunny June evening into a dark day in Canada’s history is not the start of something new. It exposed a horrific undercurrent of Islamophobia that already exists in Canada and exemplified the increase in hate-motivated crimes against Muslim people across the country. 

As Canada’s Special Representative on Combatting Islamophobia, Amira Elghawaby battles Islamophobia daily. She will share her vision for a safer society at the 2023 Currents Lecture held in Richcraft Hall on the Carleton University campus on Sept. 27.

“When it comes to Islamophobia, we’ve found that people sometimes view Muslims in a negative light,” Elghawaby said.

“We’ve seen polling that shows Islam to be the least-liked religion of the five major religions in Canada. We’ve seen Canadians say they have negative views towards our communities.”

Ahead of her lecture, Elghawaby said Islamophobia is part of the seeds of distrust and stereotypes that can be sowed in people’s minds, and combatting Islamophobia means targeting the root issues of discrimination.

“When we try to address Islamophobia, we aren’t only addressing discrimination and racism, we try to get at the core of what it means to live in an inclusive society,” Elghawaby said.

Elghawaby isn’t new to the Carleton community; she earned a BA in journalism and law from Carleton University in 2001. She also grew up in Ottawa, an experience she speaks highly of. 

Register for the upcoming Currents Lecture with Amira Elghawaby

“Growing up in the east end of the city, I was never worried about my safety as a Canadian Muslim. It wasn’t anything I thought about as a child or even as a teenager,” Elghawaby said. 

Elghawaby added that people were curious about her religion growing up, allowing her to be proud of sharing Islam. But that changed after 9/11 when her community drew negative attention, according to Elghawaby. 

As a result of a rise in Islamophobia, attacks against Muslim people and communities, like London’s devastation in 2021 and the Quebec City Mosque shooting in 2017, renewed worries for Elghawaby and other Canadian Muslims.

“These were watershed moments for our communities,” Elghawaby said. “We became anxious, especially those like myself who are visibly Muslim. We were a bit worried about being able to fully participate in society without having that type of fear.”

Examining these fears and concerns is precisely what Elghawaby’s job calls for her to do. In her recent trip to Kitchener, Ont., she met Senator Bernadette Clement and tweeted that they discussed aspects of their human rights work.

“Our work may feel heavy at times, but it is hopeful!” the tweet said.

Elghawaby described the heaviness of her job as having to communicate how Islamophobia affects people’s lives, but the hope is that fellow Canadians will continue to speak out and demonstrate allyship in these very difficult moments. 

Elghawaby joins a notable list of Currents Lecture speakers, the most recent being activist Maude Barlow, who spoke about The Power of Hope in a World of Challenges. To demonstrate your allyship and hear Elghawaby speak at the 2023 Currents Lecture, register on the FPA Carleton website.

Register for the upcoming Currents Lecture with Amira Elghawaby

Wednesday, September 13, 2023 in
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