Anti-Islamophobic Curriculums

by Rahat Zaidi (Author)
©2017 Textbook XVI, 134 Pages
Open Access


Since patterns of immigration began taking hold, one of the primary goals of any immigrant to, or citizen of, North America has been to be accepted and to adapt to a new culture and learn to live a productive and healthy life. There are many different means by which people endeavor to accomplish this. One of these is through education, a platform that has been, and should continue to be, a principal path to achieving this goal. The field of education has also become one of the primary forums for provoking and questioning societal norms and is a powerful means towards achieving the vision of a multicultural society capable of living, working, and playing in harmony.
Anti-Islamophobic Curriculums presents a specific curriculum to help teachers and young learners gain more awareness of cultures much different from theirs. Anti-Islamophobic Curriculums also endeavours to decrease sociophobic reaction toward cultures that are unfamiliar and to acquaint learners with a curriculum beyond what has traditionally been their predominant English/French/Indigenous experience. While the conclusions this book draws are applicable to any culture, the curriculum presented here emphasizes the Islamic culture and, through the educational process, aims to mitigate the sociophobic reaction its members often encounter.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • Advance praise for Anti-Islamophobic Curriculums
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Foreword
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: Anti-Islamophobic Curriculums
  • Chapter One
  • Multiculturalism Policy and Practice: The Canadian Perspective
  • Chapter Two
  • The Challenges of Multiculturalism: Canadian and Global Perspectives
  • Chapter Three
  • Islamophobia: A Twenty-First Century Example of Sociophobic Development
  • Chapter Four
  • Toward Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy and Antiphobic Initiatives
  • Chapter Five
  • Foundations for an Anti-Islamophobic Curriculum
  • Conclusion
  • Series Index

← vi | vii →


As I am reading Rahat Zaidi’s book and thinking about what I might write in this foreword the issues that she courageously raises in her book, expressions of Islamophobia, fear of the other and precariousness of cross-cultural understanding in a nominally multicultural society have disquietingly come to dominate the political discourse in our federal Canadian election. The issue in particular about Islamic women’s rights to wear the niqab while reciting the oath for citizenship has exploded into one of the defining issues in the election campaign. Despite the Canadian Supreme Court’s overturning of a government law which would make the wearing of the niqab illegal during citizen ceremonies, the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper (2006–2015), has vowed to challenge that law, and in not so coded language, has made reference to what counts as being “really” Canadian and at the same time linking the wearing of niqab to more generalized fears of terrorism. In so doing he has appealed in the basest fashion to ignorance and fear as ways to shore up his electoral support. Already, Mr. Harper’s words and stance has led to violence against Muslim women, and a surge of support for his party’s re-election in certain parts of the country. ← vii | viii →

Professor Zaidi notes, “writing this book has caused me to re-examine much of what I have tried to represent in my life.” I take this to mean that the impetus for writing the book is not just to address immediate events as I noted above, but from a long-standing commitment to understanding how language, symbols, and cultural practices are fundamental to the education of the young. As recent events illustrate, this has becomes an even more urgent curriculum task.

While recognizing the central importance of multiculturalism in Canadian society, both as an official policy and the way that we as Canadians identify ourselves, Professor Zaidi provides signal service in reminding us that the language of multiculturalism can also lead to complacency about and assumed tolerance for cultural difference. A number of years Aoki (1996) wrote evocatively that multiculturalism can devolve into a fetish for the “things of culture.” In Edmonton, where I live, there is an annual summer “Heritage Days” when literally tens of thousands of people gather to sample and experience ethnic foods, costumes, and dances. It is rightly celebrated for its peaceful display of our multicultural reality, but as Aoki notes, such events which stress “things” can ignore questions about how we really perceive and understand the other, and under what conditions and by whom, difference is tolerated.

Citing Homi Bhabha and Heidegger, Aoki stresses that culture really begins to matter at the boundaries, that is when cultures meet or to put it even more concretely, when people of different cultures meet face to face. It is at that moment when the “things of culture” do not help to craft expressions of understanding and tolerance. It is one thing to express admiration—or to recoil in fear or disgust—at expressions of cultural difference such as the niqab, but it is much more difficult to stay at the boundaries of interaction and begin the necessary conversations that understanding requires.

As Professor Zaidi writes in her reflections on multiculturalism, “perhaps the largest issue surrounding present day multiculturalism is the lack of understanding that often leads to misguided perceptions perpetuated by the media and a general lack of awareness surrounding any new culture.” As she suggests this lack of understanding has ← viii | ix → become more urgent. While Canada has always been a nation of immigrants, more recent immigration from other than European countries has raised new questions, which cannot be simply contained in the passive language of multiculturalism. The recent wave of refugees from Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East and Africa has further created anxiety—and phobia—about how much “difference” a society can or should tolerate. This challenge is reflected in the questions Professor Zaidi poses for her inquiry: “How does the face of multiculturalism embrace change as it strives to integrate religious differences as well as cultural dynamics? How can cultural and religious integration succeed without isolating cultures? Should a culture be permitted to maintain its structure, to the point of segregation?”

I had the privilege of working with Professor Zaidi on other projects framed by the issues she raises in her current book. Recently, we published an edited volume focusing on hope and peace as curricular aims. In our preface we wrote,

[…] devastating events especially strain our ability to make sense of the world. However, it is this very difficulty, that is how we develop language that begins to more generously take up a sense of the self in relation to others we recognize as a central challenge for curriculum […] when using the term language, we are also aware that this is not just a limited notion of language in a cognitive or denotative sense, but one that involves emotional and aesthetic responses, what the political philosopher William Connolly (2013) terms “the receptive side of our engagements” (Naqvi & Smits, 2015).

Perhaps politicians feel constrained by their need to appeal to diverse communities on the one hand, and to appease specific economic, social, and cultural interests so, for example, the discourse about refugees and migrants becomes one about numbers and about protecting ourselves against possible harm and disruption. But as educators—and this to whom the book Professor Zaidi’s book is most directly aimed—we cannot forego the responsibility to respond to the other in terms of our shared humanity and our distinctive and unique ways of expressing our humanity: to appeal as Connolly suggests above, to our receptive sides.

I think Professor Zaidi’s book takes on this challenge admirably. She also reminds us that the imperative to educate for cultural understanding ← ix | x → and the need to nurture our receptive sides also requires sound knowledge and forms of information that can contribute to not simply learning about the other, but offers language and tools for meeting at the boundaries in engaging and meaningful ways. In doing so, Professor Zaidi also reminds that such education is not simply the domain of any one subject in schools, but is something that can and should be woven into the fabric of teaching and learning across the curriculum. Professor Zaidi offers us a way of thinking about and practicing what she calls “culturally responsive teaching,” a practice that challenges fear, indifference, and facile expressions of multiculturalism. Her more specific message is that we urgently require that such responsiveness take on antiphobic initiatives. It is a challenge to see the other as human, and that being human can be celebrated in expressions of diversity, not just a celebration of diversity, but an active commitment to counter fear and ignorance.

Hans Smits, University of Calgary, Canada


XVI, 134
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Open Access
Publication date
2019 (April)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2017. XVI, 134 pp.

Biographical notes

Rahat Zaidi (Author)

Rahat Zaidi is Associate Professor and Chair of Language & Literacy at the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary. She has published a number of critical works regarding cultural diversity and language pedagogy. Her research has generated and mobilized knowledge concerning best practices that specifically address the challenges and opportunities involved in educating a diverse school population. Currently, she is conducting research with refugee populations to further understanding on parental engagement in public schools. Her new works include Literacy Lives in Transcultural Times, with Jennifer Rowsell.


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151 pages