Final Report on the Needs of Muslim Students Released by the Canadian Federation of Students' Task Force



    TORONTO, March 21 /CNW/ - The Canadian Federation of Students released a
report examining college and university responsiveness to Muslim students
today. The Federation's Task Force on the Needs of Muslim Students compiled
the report based on participation of nearly 1,000 Muslim students at 17
on-campus hearings over a seven month period.
    "The goal was to develop a better understanding of the needs of Muslim
students and to determine how well Ontario universities and colleges are
addressing those needs," said Jesse Greener, Ontario Chairperson of the
Canadian Federation of Students. "It's clear that every day Muslim students
face both overt and subtle forms of Islamophobic discrimination on Ontario
campuses."
    Islamophobia, as defined in the Ontario Human Rights Commission, is the
use of stereotypes, biased or hostile acts towards individual Muslims or
followers of Islam in general. The Ontario Human Rights Code sets out
standards of religious accommodation for the beliefs and practices of
racialised individuals or groups within workplaces and learning environments.
    "A general 'failure to accommodate' was the most frequently identified
problem by Muslim students in many facets of campus life," said Ausma Malik,
Task Force member and student at the University of Toronto. "From a lack of
appropriate foods on campus and inadequate prayer space to inflexible academic
policies that are often at odds with religious obligations, Ontario's Muslim
students often face a fundamentally different learning environment than other
students."
    High tuition fees and the overwhelmingly loan-based student financial aid
system are particularly problematic for Muslim students. "Interest-bearing
loans are forbidden in Islam, which means that provincial and federal
government loans are simply off-limits for many practicing Muslims," said
Mohamed Sheibani, Task Force member and the President of the Muslim Students'
Association National of the U.S. and Canada. "The Task Force is asking whether
an inadequate system of need-based grants contravenes the spirit and intent of
the Ontario Human Rights Code."
    The report, which is the first of its kind in North America, recommends
improved responsiveness to the growing number of Muslim students and urges
that similar accommodations offered to other students be provided.
    "Students were encouraged by the interest in the work of the Task Force
shown by Chief Ontario Human Rights Commissioner Barbara Hall," said Greener.
"Responsibility lies with institutional decision-makers and government to
follow and enforce the Human Rights Code. We expect that there will be a
review of at least the most obvious discriminatory practices and that serious
consideration will be given to the recommendations made in this report by
government officials, college and university administrators, faculty and
staff, as well as students."

    The Canadian Federation of Students is comprised of more than 500,000
students across Canada, and 300,000 students in Ontario. The Federation's
campaign "No Islamophobia, Anti-Semitism, Racism" is widely used on college
and university campuses across Ontario.

    View the full report here: www.noracism.ca





For further information:

For further information: Jesse Greener, Ontario Chairperson, (416)
925-3825 or (416) 301-5747 (cell); Célia Jutras, représentante des étudiantes
et étudiants francophones, au (416) 828-0476 (cell); Ausma Malik,
Vice-President Equity, University of Toronto Students' Union, (416) 888-7023


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