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Conversation with Dr. Katherine Bullock on Internal and External Issues Vis-à-Vis Religiosity and Secularity: Past Chair, Islamic Society of North America-Canada (ISNA-Canada); Lecturer, Political Science, University of Toronto at Mississauga (3)

February 1, 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 26.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (21)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: February 1, 2021

Issue Publication Date: May 1, 2021

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 1,623

ISSN 2369-6885

Abstract

Dr. Katherine Bullock is a Lecturer in the Department of Political Science, University of Toronto Mississauga. Her teaching focus is political Islam from a global perspective, and her research focuses on Muslims in Canada, their history, contemporary lived experiences, political and civic engagement, debates on the veil, and media representations of Islam and Muslims.  She was the editor of the American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences from 2003-2008, the Vice-President of The Association of Muslim Social Scientists (North America) from 2006-2009. Her publications include Muslim Women Activists in North America: Speaking for Ourselves and Rethinking Muslim Women and the Veil: Challenging Historical and Modern Stereotypes, which has been translated into Arabic, French and Turkish. She is also President of The Tessellate Institute, a non-profit research institute, and of Compass Books, dedicated to publishing top-quality books about Islam and Muslims in English. Originally from Australia, she lives in Oakville with her husband and children. She embraced Islam in 1994. She discusses: the external issues for the various Muslim communities in Canada; manifestations of hate groups; imaginary internal issues in Canadian Muslim communities reified into Muslim-wide; real internal issues in Canadian Muslim communities formulated as Muslim-wide; some external issues coming from secular groups against Canadian Muslims; some external issues coming from other religious groups against Canadian Muslims; external issues created through simply not asking spokespeople for different sects or traditions of Islam within Canada; some federal, provincial, and municipal issues for Canadian Muslims; some solutions to the enumerated external issues; and some solutions to the enumerated external issues.

Keywords: Canadian, Islam, Katherine Bullock, Muslims, University of Toronto at Mississauga.

Conversation with Dr. Katherine Bullock on Internal and External Issues Vis-à-Vis Religiosity and Secularity: Past Chair, Islamic Society of North America-Canada (ISNA-Canada); Lecturer, Political Science, University of Toronto at Mississauga (3)

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Now, to the external issues for the various Muslim communities in Canada, what are the core issues externally, as in imposed from the outside making ordinary religious life more difficult as fellow Canadians?

Dr. Katherine Bullock[1],[2]: The most important external issue for the various Muslim communities in Canada is anti-Muslim racism, usually called “Islamophobia.” I personally prefer the term anti-Muslim racism because it locates the issue as hate and discrimination targeted towards Muslims, rather than a ‘phobia’ which locates the issue as an emotion in the perpetrator. Muslims are from many ethnic backgrounds but are homogenised and racialized as a group. Racism can be subtle -what are called ‘microagressions’- such as a nasty look, refusing to serve in a timely manner, refusing to greet; it can be subtle discrimination in the workplace, such as not hiring a woman in hijab or a man with the name Muhammad by saying there are no positions available, not renting an apartment and so on. Racism can be overt, such as getting spat on, yelled at, hijab pulled off, rammed with a car, graffiti on mosques, receiving hate emails or voicemails. Schools are challenged for allowing prayer on site. Quebec’s Bill C21 which bans public employees from wearing religious headgear is an example of institutionalised racism. Hate crime statistics show that Muslim women are disproportionately targeted.

Jacobsen: We can be explicit here. There has been a history of neo-Nazi and White Supremacism in Canada who adhere to a twisted formulation of European-Canadian ethnic identity, primarily, and, often, the Christian religion, secondarily. How are these groups, as manifestations of hate groups, making life as Muslims more difficult than necessary in Canadian society?

Bullock: It’s not just a simple matter of white/non-White, in Canada we have to note that Hindutva and Coptic groups are joining forces with white supremacist groups targeting Muslims. These groups threaten the personal safety of Muslims. They organise rallies and demonstrations preaching the exclusion of Muslims from public and private sectors; sometimes at these rallies they dress in army fatigues, sending a militarised message of hate; they send hate mails to Muslim leaders or online comments sections; some of them tragically assault, even murder, Muslims. The White Supremacists have an extremely narrow notion of what it means to be a “Canadian.” Trudeau has called Canada the first “post-national state,” meaning that it is a nation-state composed of citizens from many different ethnic groups. We must remember too how all of this settlement has displaced the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island, but that is a different topic.

Jacobsen: How are particularized imaginary internal issues in Canadian Muslim communities reified into Muslim-wide, as in stereotyping, issues and used by misinformed, ignorant, or downright bad actors, to attack Canadian Muslims?

Bullock: The most important particularized imaginary internal issue that is reified into a stereotype is the notion that “Islam oppresses women.” This blanket assessment is then used to drive policy, both foreign and domestic – eg support for the war against the Taliban or the regional authoritarian rulers like Sisi in Egypt; or setting up a ‘barbaric cultural practices hotline’ or banning niqab at citizenship ceremonies. Quebec’s Bill C21, which has wide support across Canada (and in which the Federal government is complicit as it didn’t take action to prevent it, fearing the loss of votes in Quebec) is premised on the idea that the hijab/niqab represent the inequality of women, hence must be banned in Canada which is committed to gender equality.

Young women can be forced by both fathers and mothers, and some women forced by their husbands, to wear hijab, but Muslim women should be respected as equal citizens in Canada. Blanket stereotyping from the wider society that makes Muslim suffer racism and discrimination is oppressive too.

Jacobsen: How are specific real internal issues in Canadian Muslim communities formulated as Muslim-wide, as in stereotyping, issues and used by misinformed, ignorant, or downright bad actors, to attack Canadian Muslims?

Bullock: Muslim women can face misogynistic practices such as genital mutilation, honour killings, or being confined to the home. But these practices are specific to some families in some ethnic groups. They are not based in textual scriptural injunctions, rather in cultural customs. They are broadened into a stereotype and then used against all Muslims.

Non-Muslim Western women can face misogynistic practices too, such as the beauty myth that can lead to anorexia or dangerous cosmetic surgery, domestic violence, and jealousy killings. These customs are not broadened to all “Western culture” and all Westerners.

Jacobsen: What are some external issues coming from secular groups against Canadian Muslims, broadly speaking?

Bullock: Broadly speaking there are some secular groups including the “progressive/left side” of the political spectrum that believe in a very rigid separation of Church and State. They are opposed to Muslim religious practices, such as five daily prayers or the need for halal food, in public institutions, including schools and universities. They believe that Muslim women are oppressed and need saving or Westernising to be empowered and free. Quebec’s hijab ban is the most extreme example of this, as it bans state employees from wearing religious headgear. But there are other more subtle pressures. Political circles on both the right and left, though for different reasons, can have a negative or unwelcoming demeanour towards Muslims. (Some would say that the Left also has a negative attitude towards practicing peoples of all faiths.)

Jacobsen: What are some external issues coming from other religious groups against Canadian Muslims, broadly speaking?

Bullock: Although I am active in several different kinds of interfaith groups, from Protestant, Catholic, Evangelical, to Jewish, and am very grateful for the respect and recognition I receive as a fellow believer, there are religious groups who support an anti-Muslim agenda because they see Islam as a false and threatening religion. These groups support policies that limit Muslim engagement in the public space including racial profiling at airports and anti-veil policies.

Jacobsen: What are external issues created through simply not asking spokespeople for different sects or traditions of Islam within Canada about Muslim Canadian concerns on specific issues for their particular tradition?

Bullock: Since externally Muslims are not recognised as being organised into sects or different traditions, we are treated the same when it comes to the negative policies and discrimination I have mentioned. In fact, Hindu and Sikhs are often attacked because of the inability of the perpetrator to recognise the difference between a Muslim, Hindu or Sikh.

The most serious issue about not asking Muslims about their specific concerns is that the disproportionate media focus on terrorists who make religious references to justify their behaviours are assumed to be spokespersons for the rest of us.

I don’t think the various sects and traditions have different concerns that are created through not being asked. Irrespective of their sect, people want to be able to practice their version in peace, pass their faith along to their children and be employed and contributing citizens to Canada, just like peoples of other faiths and ethnic groups in Canada, including the White Nationalist Christians, who would like to be the only ones to exercise that ability.

Jacobsen: What are some federal, provincial, and municipal issues for Canadian Muslims, so policy, political statements, party platforms, and the like? Some of more clear; others are more amorphous. 

Bullock: In general, Canadian Muslims have the same concerns as other Canadians, as established by the National Survey on Canadian Muslim opinion from Environics, especially related to the economy and their ability to find work. Now, of course, they are, like everyone else, dealing with the pandemic and lockdown and the personal and professional fallout from that. So, employment and healthcare, which are provincial. Municipal issues relate to discrimination from neighbours or being prevented from building a new house of worship, or graffiti and hate rallies. Ending police practices such as racial profiling, excessive force and killing innocent Muslims during an encounter with the police is high on the agenda of needed reforms.

For the Federal level, Canadian Muslims are deeply concerned that Canada help their brethren who are being slaughtered or squeezed to death, such as the Uighur in China; the Rohingya in Myanmar, the Kashmiris in India/Kashmir, the Palestinians in Israel/Palestine.

Jacobsen: What are some solutions to the enumerated external issues already being discussed and/or implemented now?

Bullock: The Black Lives Matter movement has put the spotlight on anti-racism. While most Muslims are not Black, and can unfortunately practice anti-black racism of their own, the anti-racist lens gives them the opportunity to spotlight anti-Muslim racism too. Ameliorating racism for one group can help improve the situation for other groups.

The Canadian discourse on multiculturalism/interculturalism, diversity, inclusion and reasonable accommodation are very precious and need to be not only protected from being whittled down but deepened.

In addition, the interfaith or multifaith movement is a very important part of addressing these solutions because it allows for empathic education creating deeper understanding for all peoples involved, including Muslims.

Jacobsen: What are some solutions to the enumerated external issues not already being discussed and/or implemented now?

Bullock: In general, extended relations between people can lead to better understanding. Even though we know that politics, hatred and disagreement is everywhere, including within single ethnic groups (Euro-Canadians are no different in this regard), the more that Canadian Muslims are part of the ordinary fabric of Canadian life, the better: political representation, CEOs, ordinary workers, homemakers, volunteers, students, sports and arts, and so on. Our habits and practices will become more known and recognisable; our strengths and foibles will make us just like other human beings – sometimes generous and noble, sometimes cantankerous and greedy.

Bullock would like to thank colleague Fayaz Karim for insightful comments on an earlier draft.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Past Chair, Islamic Society of North America-Canada (ISNA-Canada)LecturerPolitical ScienceUniversity of Toronto at Mississauga; Past President, Tesselate Institute; President, Compass Books.

[2] Individual Publication Date: February 1, 2021: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/bullock-1; Full Issue Publication Date: May 1, 2021: https://in-sightjournal.com/insight-issues/.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. Conversation with Dr. Katherine Bullock on Internal and External Issues Vis-à-Vis Religiosity and Secularity: Past Chair, Islamic Society of North America-Canada (ISNA-Canada); Lecturer, Political Science, University of Toronto at Mississauga (3) [Online]. February 2021; 26(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/bullock-1.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2021, February 1). Conversation with Dr. Katherine Bullock on Internal and External Issues Vis-à-Vis Religiosity and Secularity: Past Chair, Islamic Society of North America-Canada (ISNA-Canada); Lecturer, Political Science, University of Toronto at Mississauga (3) . Retrieved from http://www.in-sightjournal.com/bullock-1.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. Conversation with Dr. Katherine Bullock on Internal and External Issues Vis-à-Vis Religiosity and Secularity: Past Chair, Islamic Society of North America-Canada (ISNA-Canada); Lecturer, Political Science, University of Toronto at Mississauga (3). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 26.A, February. 2021. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/bullock-1>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2021. Conversation with Dr. Katherine Bullock on Internal and External Issues Vis-à-Vis Religiosity and Secularity: Past Chair, Islamic Society of North America-Canada (ISNA-Canada); Lecturer, Political Science, University of Toronto at Mississauga (3).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 26.A. http://www.in-sightjournal.com/bullock-1.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “Conversation with Dr. Katherine Bullock on Internal and External Issues Vis-à-Vis Religiosity and Secularity: Past Chair, Islamic Society of North America-Canada (ISNA-Canada); Lecturer, Political Science, University of Toronto at Mississauga (3).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 26.A (February 2021). http://www.in-sightjournal.com/bullock-1.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2021, ‘Conversation with Dr. Katherine Bullock on Internal and External Issues Vis-à-Vis Religiosity and Secularity: Past Chair, Islamic Society of North America-Canada (ISNA-Canada); Lecturer, Political Science, University of Toronto at Mississauga (3)’In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 26.A. Available from: <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/bullock-1>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2021, ‘Conversation with Dr. Katherine Bullock on Internal and External Issues Vis-à-Vis Religiosity and Secularity: Past Chair, Islamic Society of North America-Canada (ISNA-Canada); Lecturer, Political Science, University of Toronto at Mississauga (3)’In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 26.A., http://www.in-sightjournal.com/bullock-1.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “Conversation with Dr. Katherine Bullock on Internal and External Issues Vis-à-Vis Religiosity and Secularity: Past Chair, Islamic Society of North America-Canada (ISNA-Canada); Lecturer, Political Science, University of Toronto at Mississauga (3).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 26.A (2021): February. 2021. Web. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/bullock-1>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. Conversation with Dr. Katherine Bullock on Internal and External Issues Vis-à-Vis Religiosity and Secularity: Past Chair, Islamic Society of North America-Canada (ISNA-Canada); Lecturer, Political Science, University of Toronto at Mississauga (3) [Internet]. (2021, February 26(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/bullock-1.

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