Friendly Manitoba: Experiences from the Muslim Community

Introduction by Angie Cusson

Welcome to the Anti-Racism Speaker series put on by the City of Winnipeg Equity Office.  In partnership with the Human Rights Committee of Council.  Thank you so much for joining us.  My name is Angie Cusson and I'm the Director of Human Resource Services, and the newly created Equity Office.

I wanted to begin today's session by doing the Treaty Land Acknowledgement.  We gratefully acknowledge that we work and reside in Treaty One Territory, the home and traditional land of the Anishinaabe (Ojibway), Ininew (Cree) and Dakota Peoples, and in the National Homeland of the Red River Metis.  Our clean drinking water comes from Shoal Lake 41st First Nation in Treaty 3 Territory.

We also have a few housekeeping items we want to be able to speak about.  I wanted to let everyone know that the City of Winnipeg is recording this session for educational purposes, and questions posed by the participants are included in what is recorded.  The collection of personal information is authorized under Section 36-1B of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, and will be used for continued information and educational purposes.  It will not be used to disclose for any other purposes unless required or permitted by law. If you have any questions, you are welcome to contact the corporate access and Privacy Officer.  A recording of today's event will be made available on CityNet and in the coming week.

We will be discussing Anti-Racism in the City of Winnipeg once the keynote is complete, you'll have an opportunity to ask any questions of our expert.  Please know you are muted and off-camera courtesy of our team, and if you have any questions you'd like addressed today you can submit it by using the “Ask a Question” button in the Microsoft Teams event.  You can also choose to ask it anonymously by making sure to select that option before clicking “Send”.  We will make an effort to get all the applicable questions asked, but we do expect we may not be able to make it through them all.  For anyone wishing to turn on close caption and subtitles, please select “Captions Subtitles” on your video controls you'll see a small box with CC written in it.  To change the caption language from English to French, you need to simply select “Settings”, then “Captions”, “Subtitles”, and then choose the language you want.  The setting button looks like a little wheel or a cog.  If you lose your connection to this event, please just use the same link to rejoin.

And please don't forget to join us every day this week at lunch to hear all of the important Anti-Racism topics being discussed.  These sessions are a joint effort between the City of Winnipeg Equity Office and the Human Rights Committee of Council.  We're partnering on this important work to share with our staff in the entire city.  The important messages are speakers will share.

We hope you enjoy today's speaker event with Doctor Idris Elbakri from the Manitoba Islamic Association.  Providing greetings and an introduction to Doctor Elbakri is Aly Raposo.  Aly is a fantastic colleague and a partner to the City of Winnipeg team.  She's also the coordinator of the Human Rights Committee of Council.  Please join me in welcoming Aly who will open up our event today.

Guest speaker introduction by Aly Raposo

Hello listeners, as Angie said, my name is Aly and I am the Coordinator for the Human Rights Committee of Council.  I just want to first thank you all so much for joining us today for a keynote on Friendly Manitoba:  Experiences from the Muslim Community.  It makes me extremely happy to introduce your speaker today, Doctor Idris Elbakri.  Idris is an active and valued member of the Human Rights Committee.  I have had the pleasure of knowing him since the inauguration of the Human Rights Committee of Council.  We work collectively within the committee and have had several discussions and meetings around things that we are both mutually passionate about, and it is always a wonderful time learning experiences for me when we connect and put our minds together.

While we pride ourselves on being a friendly province, this friendliness is not exhibited by all and it's not experienced by all.  Doctor Idris Elbakri will share some early results from a project conducted by the Manitoba Islamic Association, aiming at documenting experiences of Islamophobia within the community.  The results point toward alarming trends both in the prevalence of experiencing Islamophobia and its’ impact on members of the community. 

Doctor Idris Elbakri grew up in Palestine, and has called Winnipeg home for over fifteen years.  Over the years, Idris has emerged as a voice for committee, Canadian Muslims, and Canadian Palestinians in Manitoba.  While also supporting a broad range of human rights causes and as a friend and ally, he has volunteered and served through several organizations, and is currently on the board of the Manitoba Islamic Association United Way, Winnipeg and Hospitality House.  And as mentioned, he is also a member of the City of Winnipeg Human Rights Committee.  He has given numerous media interviews and spoken in several forums on topics related to Muslims in Manitoba, Islamophobia, and Palestine, and has published a number of editorial opinions in the Winnipeg Free Press and CBC Manitoba.  His passion for Freedom and Justice is driven by the multi-generational experience of his family as they struggled with colonialism.  Professionally, Idris works in healthcare and has an appointment as an assistant professor at the University of Manitoba. And with that I would like to hand it over to my colleague and friend, Doctor Elbakri.

Presentation by Dr. Idris Elbakri

Thank you, Aly for that very kind introduction.  I'd like to thank all those who are listening, tuning in, and following us, and thank you for making time out of your day.  For this, I'd like to start by greeting you with a greeting of peace be upon you.  So welcome and I want to acknowledge a privilege I feel to be with you here today, but also to live on Treaty One Territory.  I also want to acknowledge that many members of our city in our community are hurting as a result of the war in Ukraine.  We ask God to bestow upon that country and its’ people return to peace and security.  Speaking of Ukrainians, among the earliest documented Muslim instances of Muslim immigration to Manitoba or a few families that settled in and around Hudson, Manitoba around 1900 and 1914 or so.  Several families all coming from Lebanon or Syria eventually settled there.  I have friends who are descendants of those immigrants who tell me that their families were able to survive and eventually thrive, and that was due in part to the help they received from their neighbors, some of whom were actually from Ukraine.  In this way, Manitoba is an interesting province where paths cross and it does not take much effort to see the interconnections between our communities.

I want to share with you some this, hope you can see them now, and basically this shows that we've had over a century of Muslim presence in Manitoba.  Over to the left is an advertisement for a Muslim business in Brandon going back to approximately the 1920s, and on the right are the pictures of the couple, Play and Ally who settled in Hudson.  But the community did not take an organized form and get to critical mass to enable it to formally organize until the 1950s, where the informal precursors to the metal Islamic Association took form, they my itself, was incorporated in 1969, and it opened the first mosque in St. Vital in 1976.

Today, Winnipeg has about ten mosques and growing, community numbering around 20,0000 people, and this is a picture of the mosque in St. Vital that continues to be open and operate until today.  And with the growing communities, and diversifying city and province, we acquire new vocabulary like Salaam (meaning peace), Allah (means God), hijab (means the scarf that women wear), mosque is a place of worship, falafel and hummus vegetarian delicacies that we all enjoy, but also we have terms like Islamophobia.

So what is it?

And since the majority of Muslims are from immigrant backgrounds, and by immigrant, I mean immigrants who are not from European heritage.

Why can't we just call it racism?

Well, it is a form of racism, but Islam is not a race.  Muslims are not erase Islam is a religion.  It's a way of life, it's virtual tradition.  And while Muslims man talk about come from tens of cultural and ethnic backgrounds, they are as communities are often conceptualized.  They're conceptualized as a collective and sometimes even considered to be part of a global monolith, which is far from the truth.  But through this membership in that collective, they can be subjected to unique forms of prejudice that are that target that perceived or conceptualized collective.  And we can find routes for this concept of Islamophobia, and that of prejudice towards Muslims just by virtue of them being Muslims in the negative traub's surrounding Islam and Muslims since the Middle Ages, especially when they were used to justify the Crusades.  Later of course, there was fear and hatred of Islam as the Ottoman Empire came in contact with Europe and expanded towards Eastern Europe.

In fact, going back to Ukraine again, Crimea used to be a primarily Muslim region inhabited by Tatar Muslims that arrived there as the result of that automatic expansion.  And one very modern and tragic manifestations of that history was the Bosnian Muslim genocide of the 1990s.  Islam further has roots in the work of Orientalists Western academics who studied Islam and the what they called the Orient who contributed to other ring.  The Muslims in the minds of the western populations.  The term Islamophobia itself dates to the beginning of the 20th century and in the 1990s it started to gain more use.

Describing various forms of hostility towards Muslims and the attacks of nine turned it into a formidable current within society.  I'd like to say that we when I speak of Islamophobia, I am not referring to rational discourse about the Muslim faith, about history or civilization.  There is a difference between, for example, studying and critiquing academically, Islamic law and between using the term Sharia law as a racial epithet, or for example, when people vote against two credit unions merging because one of them offers a mortgage that is aligned with Muslim values.  Brown financial transactions, which is something that we find reported in the local media from a few years ago.

Islamophobia is a global phenomenon.  In fact, in some parts of the world it is official government policy in parts of Canada.  It is official government policy, for example, with Bill 21 in Quebec.  In India, for example, we find increasing calls to ban the hijab.  In China, in the western regions of the Uyghur Muslims are today placed in concentration camps to ideology ideologically brainwashed them out of their religion, and in fact there have been reports of government officials living in with in households to monitor whether these families are practicing their religion or not.

But what causes Islamophobia?

People are not born Islamophobic, just they are not just like they're not born anti-Semitic or racist against particular group of people.  They are socialized into these sentiments and beliefs contributing to that are some of the files.  Here are some possible causes for that.  First is the misinformation industry, and I want to emphasize the design industry before there was even concerned about Facebook and social media spreading misinformation.  There were entities manufacturing fear of Muslims in the West and they've used global events. And the rise of terrorism to create fear of Muslims, and to justify policies and that the dehumanized Muslims.  Just want you to think about again going to the Ukraine that no one is blaming Russians, the Russian people for the war on Ukraine.  In fact, we find a lot of empathy for them and even empathy for the soldiers who we feel some may be forced into this war against their own wishes and judgment.  But this nuance was generally lost when the war in terror was in full swing and almost limbs were picked with a broad brush as violent, extreme terrorists.  They also want society stops working for some.  Scapegoat is often needed, and once politicians run out of ideas to offer to solve real problems they manufacture imaginary problems and result to calling on people's narrowest sense of identity.  But let's not work under the globe, and let's focus at home Canada.

This is really, really interesting and really, really perplexing and concerning, but it has been home to some of the worst violence against Muslims in the Western world.  We have the Quebec mosque in 2017 where six worshippers were killed.  We have a killing of a mosque caretaker in Toronto in 2021 and then obviously the massacre of the family in London, Ontario last year as well.  After the massacre and the attack on the Apple family in London, we started asking ourselves what is the experience of our community here in Manitoba?  How good or how bad is our situation here as opposed to the community, so we conducted a survey over the summer and fall to better understand the images experiences.  Therefore, results are not published yet, but today I have the privilege of offering some insights from the results of that project anonymously.

When we heard from people a number of things that I'd like to give you some examples of what they've said, so I'm going to quote here what a parent shared about the experience of his daughter in Grade 6 and her friend.  Both girls at the time were wearing hijab, the headscarf quote, he asked her and her friend, what would happen if he pulled their hijabs off he proceeded to harass them during the day tugging on their hijabs.  He eventually pushed the friend as she was and her head nearly hit the wall.  He also pulled my daughter’s hair as he walked by her desk.  So you may think that he in this case refers maybe to a classmate, but the reality is in this case it refers to a teacher.  So can you imagine a child at Grade 6 being subjected to this violence by a teacher?

Another example, after applying for employment to supermarket chain, a Muslim woman was told quote she cannot be hired because of “her hijab”.  You've heard from people experiencing physical assault, verbal assault threatened by viewing vehicles towards them, and children suffering from rampant bullying in schools because of their Muslim identities and now these isolated incidents.

Unfortunately, I think you'll see that when we publish this report in a couple of weeks, it seems they are not.  It seems that there are consistent patterns where community members are experiencing Islamophobia and the primary victims of it are women and youth.  People have expressed to us their concern for their physical safety for being visibly identifiable as Muslim, and for being in Muslim spaces that could be subject to violence or to attack under first hand.  That among mosque leaders, the question is not if the mosque, sanctity, and safety will be violated, but the question is when, and not what can we do to prevent it but what can we do to minimize the casualties? So, the bottom line is that Islamophobia and Manitoba is real.  It is lived every day and it can have devastating effects.

So, where do you go from here?

Others pondered this question and I wanted to post it to you.  I found myself first stopping and asking the question who are we when I say where do we go from here?  What do we mean by the word we when you think of who's a Winnipegger?  What comes to your mind or who's a Manitoban?  What comes to your mind?

I recently read an article in the Star in which the author of East Indian Heritage lamented the loss of nuance in what she thought was the loss of nuance in the use of the term BIPOC.  She spoke about the check boxes that we are often asked to check to identify ourselves, or how we see ourselves and our identities, and how they do not capture who we are.  You could just imagine the challenge of adding a checkbox that refer to someone's religion.  We know that these groups can be targeted, but we don't probably find it very difficult to start enumerating religions on these checkboxes where people identify which communities they come from, where they belong to.  And my reaction to that article is that we will struggle with terminology with identifying ourselves or other people.  As we are, as long as we are unable to use the word person or human and its full meaning.  If we're just able to think of each other as human beings as persons, and we would not really need to identify each other with the ratio without racial or religious identities.  So when we say we can we strive to consider that includes every human being, every person who is in our city or our province or our country, they are worthy of respect.  They're worthy of dignity and their rights as any other person.  Even if we may be vehemently opposed to what they believe in, you how they live their lives, even if deep down we had an unexplained dislike for some components of their identity.  And we all have some deeply held biases that we may not be even aware of.  But even if we became aware of them, and we knew that we didn't like something, we still ensure that the person in front of us is considered our eyes to be fully human.  So whether it's Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, racism against black people or indigenous people.  The place we start before policies and before really we can create impactful change is really inside our hearts.  To view each and every one of us as a human being, all of these forms of prejudice and racism arise from willingness.  Effectively, there are ways in which we humanize others and so let's start by affirming each other’s humanity.  If we don't do that, then I'm sorry to say that our list of checkboxes will continue to grow and grow.  But once we've humanized each other and once we've worked on our internal biases then we can, the sky is the limit we can do so much.  In fact, we can even invent possibly a pill to cure Islamophobia.

Here's an attempt at humor, but in the US Muslim advocacy group came up with this advertising campaign promoting Islamophobia Pearl that would help cure their Islamophobia.  We wish only that it was that simple, but we can learn about each other and about the forces that bring us together and those are Turner support, we can learn about Muslim their contributions, their history here in Canada and across the world.  You can visit the mosque or take a Muslim colleague to coffee or tea.  They are talkative bunch and they will have lots to sing.  We can think critically about what we hear about others and don't start with assumptions, not share something here that I have.  I've been hearing from girls who wear the hijab in high school.  Girls who grew up here who this is their only home and how much it bothers them when teachers and school officials assume that they may need help with English.  So don't start with assumptions, and then build connections.

I'm going to another story here.  Trump was elected, I was serving as the President of the Manitoba Islamic Association.  I kept getting this request to meet by a guy called Victor, and I was, to be honest, a little bit suspicious and uncomfortable meeting a complete stranger, so initially I ignored the requests but they kept coming back, was persistent.  Whoever was behind those emails was persistent, so finally I relented and I agreed to meet for coffee in a public place. And Vic was man again Ukrainian heritage.  His father had come here from the Ukraine many years ago, and Vic said Nina is so he's a white, European Christian and he said “I hate what Trump is doing and saying my line just to reach out” and extend a hand in friendship.  And can I have been really, really good friends ever since he comes to my home.  I go to our families know each other and we stay in touch and we continue to build connections and expand that circle.  So learn about your other thing critically about what we hear about each other, and build connections, and then stand in solidarity.  It's really a verb.  We use the term thoughts and prayers, I'm a man of faith.  I believe in prayer, but I also believe that we have to take action so when we still need to stand in solidarity with each other.  And that and take action when we see someone being subjected to harassment to interrupt and defend if we can do so in a way that is safe, and will reduce the harm done to all of us witnessing that particular event.

I will share with you a couple of slides so in the interest of learning about each other.  There was a book published last year about the history of Muslims in Manitoba.  There's a QR code that you can scan to go to the website for the book that interest you.  It's a very fascinating interest, and I think it’s kind of a unique that someone has taken the time to actually write a book about the history of the Muslim community in a Canadian province.  And also the Manitoba Islamic Association has ongoing reading challenge where it challenges people of any faith of any background to read the number.  To read some one of its suggested books and two you could write a little book report, one page or paragraph, or even a child can send a little video and they will be entered to win gift card to McNally Robinson.  So the QR code is on the screen.

So let me conclude then with this.  I went to university in the US and had a very powerful African American professor.  Very charismatic, very, very intelligent man.  He said something that stuck with me for many for many years.  He said something to the fact that “racism ultimately leads to the victim hating themselves.  They accept that they are inferior or deserving of prejudice”.  And that is my biggest worry as a Canadian Muslim for my community, and I see it happening that we are internalizing the tropes that prejudice and the stereotypes.  I also worry that we fall into a sense of perpetual victimhood that cripples US and takes over the agenda of our community instead of building our community, or consumed by trying to defend it and justify its presence and its existence.  We cannot let that happen, and for that I hope. 

Thank you very much and I'll be happy to take any questions or to see your comments.  And hopefully I know this is a one-day event, but hopefully this is the beginning of a conversation and I want to thank all those who helped organize this week.  It truly is an amazing thing to see the City of Winnipeg taking the lead on dealing with these issues.  Again, thank you very much.

Question and Answer Period moderated by Diane Burelle and responded to by Dr. Idris Elbakri

Diane:  Thank you so much Doctor Elbakri for your very insightful keynote address with us this morning.  You've highlighted for us key findings, disturbing findings of these trends of Islamophobia within the community, and you've underscored the various forms of racism that are experienced as well.  So to help ensure cultural safety in our community and organizations, we truly must work together as you've outlined.  Beginning within ourselves within each of our hearts to start dismantling biases, prejudices, and working actively in the community dismantling this form of oppression.  We'll now move to the question and answer period.  We may not be able to answer all the questions, so I will commit to compiling those and adding them to the Winnipeg Anti-Racism in Action 2022 site, so we'll just put it out to the audience here if there are any questions.

So here's one that's come up, do you he school curriculum discusses racism such as Islamophobia?

Dr. Elbakri:  That's a great question, and I thank you for it, and I don't think it does in that at least not in that context.  Speaking as a parent who has four kids in public school, so I don't think it comes up.  I will say that there are some positive things in that schools have been open in my experience to, for example, Muslim kids sharing components of their culture with others.  But at the same time, I know that there's also other we have problems, and one of the alarming things that will come out of our study is that a lot of kids are experiencing.  I hope you are having our experiencing negative experience having negative experiences at school because of this.   And one of the things we did as part of this project is we interviewed some mental health professionals who work with Muslim youth, and they said especially for the girls, what's happening is this could have the consequence of discouraging them from pursuing education.  So we will have some recommendations and one of them will be exactly that the curriculum needs to integrate Racism, Islamophobia.  But also I think integrating in a positive sense by just highlighting that Muslims here have a long history, and there's many contributions to Canadian society, and trying to increase the confidence of the Muslim kids in schools, and increase the tolerance of their peers and their teachers to them.

Diane:  I see next question I'll just help myself, do it do you took you took it away?  Sorry, there was another question I think maybe I have to go to the published ones.  Sorry, just give me one second, there's one, do you know when the results of the study will be published? 

Dr. Elbakri:  I expect that they will be published in the first week of April.  There will be a media launch event, and the report will be made available publicly along with some infographics to help kind of condense its findings.  So hopefully please look for that in the first week of April.

Diane:  Excellent, we look forward to reviewing that report.  While we're waiting for others to formulate their questions in the Q&A, what are some of the immediate steps that each of us can take in addition to that introspection and exploring how we can enter it?  Dismantle or disrupt it when we observe it?  Is there anything else that Doctor Elbakri that you would recommend that we examine for ourselves to strengthen our performance in dismantling this form of?

Dr. Elbakri:  I think the biggest thing is, especially if for those who may be working in the public sector, is don't make assumptions about people who are accessing your services or reaching out for assistance.  Not make assumptions about people.  I gave this simple example of some of the kids in school dealing with fairly minor issue of some teachers asking them “do you understand the question?  Do you want it in simpler English?”  And that really gets to them?  Unfortunately, but you see all Muslim woman what comes to mind?  What do you think she suppressed?  Do you think she's been forced to wear the veil? Do you think she's not educated?  And so I think just trying to strip ourselves, and just opening ourselves to being educated through our interactions with people based on the terms that they set for those interactions would be would be very, very important.  I think the other part is obviously that we are citizens we live in a democracy, and it's very important to strengthen that democracy, and to make choices in that democracy that lead us towards establishing society that is equitable for all citizens.  And I think this is important, and I'm not sure what people feel about this, but like personally I have taken social media off my phone completely and because I found myself that I'm really I am really echo chamber.  I'm being shown what I want to see and I don't want that, and so I think we need to kind of connect with people on a human level and get to know each other.  There's nothing better than getting to know each other.  I have actually made friends as I described earlier because of Trump and his policies, and I've seen members of our community, and I mean the broader community, Winnipeg in Dialyte, really make clear that they don't stand for these things, and I think so, when something does happen your presence at the event.  You're saying something positive, encouraging, and comforting is very important, and of course as levels of different levels of government, there is definitely the space for adopting policies and putting in place actions and plans to, again, positively uplift people as opposed to focusing on the negative parts of what's going on.  But also to give people a chance that yes, we celebrate QVC you we appreciate your presence here, and this is a place where you belong and this is home to like it is for every for everybody else.

Diane:   Thank you, a few more questions.  Can you please share the QR codes again?

Dr. Elbakri:  I will do that shortly.

Diane:  And while you're doing that, I'll post the next question. With so much hate circulating and false information on social media, how should we deal with you, talked about you, or you shut it down and you're not participating?

Dr. Elbakri:  Unfortunately, there's a large component of the community that takes that social media platform as truth and dumb, so again to the question, how do we?  How should be filtering this in discerning?  And that's a good question, I don't claim to have the answer to I think it's one of those challenges that our society has to grapple with in the coming years, and months, months, and years.  But I will say this that just we have to be critical thinkers, and I think we have to go to the we have to think about even at the when we educating our kids in schools to ensure that they develop critical thinking skills.  In the context of questioning what they see on social media, and I normally don't have, don't have a solution for this to share with you and no deep insights.  Personally, I made the choice of significantly cutting down, and just unplugging for the most part.  I mean I do still check them and I do occasionally post, but not to the level that I used to and that has worked for me. So I proactively seek my news from reputable sources, proactively seek to look at different perspectives on things.  And just because I recognized it again, social media will show me what I want to see, what they think I want to see.  I think the other part is really just get to know people and talk to people.  Establish these connections.  Take a risk on someone and say “I'm gonna try to be your friend”, and it's amazing what we can learn from a chat over a cup of coffee.

So let me just share those QR codes before we forget.  So this is the first one.  This is the one for the book about the history of the Muslim community in Manitoba.  I'll let that sit there for oopsy for few seconds.  Here it is again.  And this one is for the winter reading challenge by the Manitoba Islamic Association.  And if you go to the mental website to my website and you, I think it's right there.  But if not, it should be under education.  There will be the winter reading challenge, or if you've been able to scan that you are code that should be fine as well.

Angie:  Thank you, there's a lengthy question here and I'm gonna try and synthesize it around.  You know the perception of trying to establish, equitable relationships, and how those with power and privilege often when we're trying to accomplish equitable outcomes for others who have historically and persistently are marginalized.  That those with power and privilege tend to resist and feel like they are being oppressed or discriminated against, and some of the examples provided were that for example, that Ottawa occupation of the Trucker Convoy prevented the vigil from the Quebec City mosque massacre from taking place over fears of violence from Trucker Convoy.  So just wanted to ask, this individual wanted to ask, how do we have conversations that address this perceived injustice versus the actual true injustices that are happening in society?

Dr. Elbakri:  So it's a very deep and insightful question, and I think we need to, it also sort of, reexamine the sources of discontent in our society and turned around them, and then deal with them and around the occupation of downtown Ottawa and the whole freedom convoy, so called Freedom Convoy Movement.  The fact that it achieved such momentum is quite interesting, and I don't believe that everybody who participated in that was racist or was Islamophobic.  Some of its leaders were definitely Islamophobic and that's an established fact.  May have had ultra-white nationalist views, but I don't think everybody who did was like that, and I think we are going through a difficult time because we are not hearing each other out.  And I think we need to whether we belong the mainstream meaning, people of European descent, or we are belong to the broad category of minorities.  I think we need to hear each other out and I think people have grievances, and sometimes the perception of a grievance is as serious as a grievance itself.  So I don't think that dismissing them all together is the solution.  However, I think that we have to realize that society is this, is democracy is civil war without weapons right?  So society is within them will have competing forces, will have different currents, and we just at some point have to take a moral position that this is the right position, and that other position is wrong and that takes a lot of courage because it's very, very difficult to take a moral position I guess our own right.  I think back in the fall around Thanksgiving I think, or maybe around Christmas, CBC was had like a slow radio story about people going to have difficult conversations around the dinner table, Christmas dinner, or Thanksgiving dinner around masks and mask mandates and whatnot.  But I think that taking that example and kind of broadening it a little bit, and saying that we should be willing to take a moral position and possibly eliminate members some people who we hold dear and that is very, very difficult.  In fact, in my own faith tradition that is called considered to be a form of spiritual struggle too.  Take your position against the ones that our own family, own tribe, or on business partners, or what have you, and I think so.  I think there's no easy way out, so I want us to hear each other out.  I want us to try to create more understanding of each other, but at the same time I want to understand the limitations of that, and that we may have to take clear positions on some issues that other members in our society may not fully agree with.

Angie:  Thank you, so agreeing to disagree and just really having that position of discerning from your lens and being comfortable with that, and that the dialogue is respectful I think is foundational for her piece.  Another question that has come in Doctor Elbakri is, can you recommend any books or resources that are helpful in learning about Islam?

Dr. Elbakri:  So if you scan the QR code you'll find a whole bunch of books, and some of them will talk about Slammers religion.  Some will address different parts of Islamic culture, some of them are aimed for children, some of them will talk about snacks virtually.  Think you'll find a wealth of resources there.  And if you just want to reach out with association directly and requests, or request suggestions that, I think, would be more than happy to provide you with more suggestions.  But there's quite extensive list of books there.  There's also a category called 20 for 22 or 22 for 2022, so 20 books for this year.  So if you're a business leader and you can read about more than two books a month, there's about two bucks a month.  There's about 22 titles that they are recommending take a look at.

Angie:  Perfect, thank you, and what can organizations and businesses do to ensure their policies, or bylaws, or operations are fully inclusive, anti racist and anti oppressive?

Dr. Elbakri:  Thank you, Rhonda for that question.  So I believe that so I've been involved in my life several times in helping draft bylaws and whatnot, and I believe, ultimately, bylaws are as good as they are.  Only as good as the people that are actually there to do the work right and so, hopefully we can even start with hiring.  We can hire people that believe in this that believe that we should have equitable workspaces and equitable society in general, and so on.  I think that training, obviously, and attending events like this and hearing from people's experiences directly can be can be very, very powerful.  I mean, it's just amazing…can I go back to my?...amazing people.  It's amazing when you connect with someone on a human level how much that can actually make a difference.  No, I'm sure there's sample in the best practice policies out there that can be easily searched and developed, but ultimately it's really the people that matter, right. It's the people who will implement these policies who either believe them or look at them as a burden, or look at them as an opportunity to grow and to improve.  Improve the city we work in, so I would say that the focus should be more on the people, less so on the documents.

Angie:  Very true, and the approach at the city is moving towards, and has implemented in a variety of forums and community service for example, is that consultation and ensuring that the voices are amplified at the level of policy or program creation.  So thank you for underscoring that.  Another question that has come in, how to support coworkers through Ramadan?

Dr. Elbakri:  Great question, so Ramadan starts on April 2nd.  It's a month-long period of daily fasting, so people will be abstaining from food, drink from dawn until sunset, and then in the evening usually families get together over a meal.  Some make it simple, some have a feast and there's also a lot of.  How you?  How do you support worker coworkers or friends?  I think you bring them a happy Ramadan would go a long way just to kind of wish them happy Ramadan, and wish them, and just ask him how's your fans going.  Are you?  How are you?  How are you managing without coffee today? I think it's showing that they're going through this, It's important to them and it would be great.  I think the other thing is if you have If you're brave enough to try it.  Today I would like to fast for one day with you.  Again, if that's something that you think you can do that would be great.  I think people will find that very, very appreciative about that.  Then if you're open to participating in some of the activities around Ramadan, I know some of the masks will have some.  Some activities open for the community Ramadan dinners and things like that.  By all means, like I again, emphasize enough how much that actually touches people.  When I first came to Winnipeg, so Ramadan will change throughout the year because most limbs, much like the Jewish tradition, we follow a lunar calendar for religious occasions and so the lunar calendar, the lunar year, is about ten days shorter than the solar year.  So the effect values Ramadan shifts by about ten days every year.  So when I first came to Winnipeg was around in December, right around Christmas and Hanukkah and so on, and so we had this wonderful secretary in our office that put up Christmas decoration, Ramadan greetings, Hanukkah greetings where and so it just, It was just wonderful.  I just like wow this is something, and I think again don't underestimate the power of small acts If you're an employer.  Someone may come and ask at the end of Ramadan we have a holiday. One of the major holidays for us, and so they may ask for time off.  I think the holiday is going to be on May 2nd.  It's a three-day holiday, but usually people just take one or two days off, and so again being accommodating with that would be great.

Angie:  Excellent, thank you.  I'm reading that next question as the study you have talked about discussed majority view.

Dr. Elbakri:  OK

Angie:  So anything positive anyone stood up and helped them?

Dr. Elbakri:  So I'm going to consider bias or potential limitation of the study in that it was an online survey because of COVID restrictions and things like that.  And so one of the possible sources of limitation is that those who had something to say were more motivated to take part in the survey, as opposed to those who possibly did not have any experiences.  However, we've had a fairly reasonable sized sample, about 190 respondents, and then we did about ten interviews with people who are influential in the community.  So we think that the study is still valid.  Having said that I'll save you from firsthand experience that there's a lot of positive in our community, and again, in the broadest sense in our society and a lot of support and a lot of empathy.  I, I'm reminded, for example, that when the Quebec mosque attacks took place in 2017, the Grand Mosque on Labor Lee was filled with visitors who came to offer their condolences and to show their support.  And this was repeated again with the Christchurch attack in New Zealand and with a unique drive in vigil for the Apple family in London.  And there is always a steady stream of letters of support and messages, and I know that in schools the kids have many supporters in the form of some of their teachers, administrators and so on.  I think what is needed is to take this to the next level, and instead institutionalized this support so that it doesn't depend on who happens to be the teacher, or who happens to be the principle, or who happens to be the makeup of that particular class.  But it's ongoing and there's a commitment from the schools and the school divisions to do that.  And I don't think that's there yet.  A few years ago, we were hosting an author who writes children's book and she wrote this really cute book called Ramadan and Curious George.  And we had arranged for her to speak to do like I think with the kids at one of the local schools.  And this was this, there's nothing theological this, but there's nothing religious about the content of the book.  It was about the food, the food that the kids would eat in Ramadan, and that the gifts they would get and so on.  And in the school canceled the day, the day of the event, or just the day before, and when we inquired, the school said parents have expressed concern about religion in schools, which is a valid concern.  But it turned out that it was really once we investigated further, there's one parent only who complained and the school has a very, very large population of Muslim kids.  So I think we need just to understand that we've got to work to do, especially in the educational system.

Diane:  Thank you, another question is with respect to Muslim-owned businesses.  Is there a resource link that on the MA page?  Maybe you could share link to that page?

Dr. Elbakri:  That's a great question, so I don't know if I don't think the chat works for the public, right? But if the website of mine is, Mia one word, and we don't list businesses there because it's a kind of a focus on the nonprofit work that we do.  But you will come check it out because I think it could be educational in terms of Muslim businesses.  I think there is actually, I mean I think with Gobert they may have been a bit quiet, but there is at Winnipeg, Muslim Business Council and I think they have a Facebook page.  And there's also a Facebook page, Facebook group called Winnipeg Muslims, where businesses almost routinely post about what they're offering, what they're selling and whatnot.  And so it will come to find more about that, yeah and that's the a page for the May.  In fact, if we scroll, if we go back on the slides. So if you dismiss slider so one of the, if you got caught it, but one of the posters was for Community Bazaar coming up I think this weekend.  So if you'd like to support, these are basically a lot of home based businesses selling hijabs, or doing simple baking and things like that, so we'd like to support them.  Oftentimes, they're led by the women in the family, so again, check that out and it's a public event.  Feel free, feel free to join for that as well.

Angie:  Thank you so much for sharing these resources, Doctor Elbakri.  One more final comment in a submitted is thanking you so much for the insightful presentation, and looking forward to hearing more from others.  And to the question around whether this is being recorded, yes this will be recorded and submitted to the site.  It'll be posted on to the, Anti-Racism and Action 2022 site probably within a week, so keep checking back the site, and down there we'll also be posting some of the Q&A's that we weren't able to get to come.  We'll just compile those to share as well, with everyone wanting to learn more and more about it.  So with that I'll pass it over to Natalie Durocher for closing remarks.

Closing Remarks by Natalie Durocher

Natalie:  Thank you.  Alright, merci, so thank you so much at this brings our time together to close, and I thank you so much Doctor Elbakri for your impactful keynote address and also thought-provoking responses to everyone's questions.  Thank you so much for that, and also thanks to all of you for attending today's session.  We have other great speakers lined up this week, and tomorrow speaker event is Social Conditioning - The Historical and Sociopolitical Context of Systemic Discrimination.  For employees who are interested in furthering their knowledge, If you could please register for that event or any other events this week through PeopleSoft.  And for members of the public, we have included the link Anti Racism and Action 2022 website in the chat where you can access the links to the other sessions.  And I also wanted to take the opportunity to thank everyone who have made today's speaker event a success.  I know I learned a lot today and just thank you everyone, and we're wishing you the rest of this great sunny day.  Thank you so much!


  1. Do you know if the school curriculum discusses racism such as islamophobia?
  2. Do you know when the results of this study will be published and how they may be accessed?
  3. Do you know if the school curriculum discusses racism such as islamophobia?
  4. Do you know when the results of this study will be published and how they may be accessed?
  5. With so much hate circulating and false information on social media, how do we deal with this?
  6. I struggle with conversations I have with people between people who feel that they’re being “oppressed” vs people who are actually experiencing discrimination. For instance, the entire movement of people in the US and Canada who are typically white, male, straight, cisgender, middle class or higher, who feel somehow disenfranchised, or the entire trucker convoy movement whose have taken over multiple city centres, harassing residents all because they’ve been asked to do the very least to protect the people around them during a global crisis. I was so upset that the Ottawa occupation prevented the vigil for the Quebec City mosque massacre from taking place over fears of violence from the trucker convoy. How do we have conversations that address this perceived injustice versus actual injustice? (Sorry for the long, complicated question!)
  7. Can you recommend any books or resources that are helpful in learning about Islam?
  8. What can organizations & businesses do to ensure their policies or By-Laws or operations are inclusive, anti-racist and anti-oppressive?
  9. With so much hate circulating and false information on social media, how do we deal with this?
  10. As the study you have talked about discussed that a majority are youth and particular girls deal are being targeted, are there anything positive in your study that shows if anyone has stood up for them or helped them? youth and in particular girls are being targeted*(As the study you have talked about discussed that a majority are youth and particular girls deal are being targeted, are there anything positive in your study that shows if anyone has stood up for them or helped them? )
  11. How to support coworkers through Ramadan?
  12. Also! I think that a lot of Manitobans don't know about the list of Muslim-owned businesses on the MIA page - maybe you could share a link to that page?
  13. Thank you for this insightful presentation. I am looking forward to the others that are scheduled this week.
  14. As the study you have talked about discussed that a majority are youth and particular girls deal are being targeted, are there anything positive in your study that shows if anyone has stood up for them or helped them?
  15. Also! I think that a lot of Manitobans don't know about the list of Muslim-owned businesses on the MIA page - maybe you could share a link to that page?

Anti-Racism in Action 2022 website: