Solidarity Halifax stands in support of Masuma Khan.
Khan is facing disciplinary action from Dalhousie University for comments she made on Facebook regarding Canada 150 celebrations – which she correctly identified as part of Canada’s ongoing colonial legacy. In response to racist comments toward her, Khan wrote: “white fragility can kiss my ass. Your white tears aren’t sacred, this land is.”
Because of these comments, written on Khan’s personal social media account, a white student is alleging that Khan has broken Dalhousie’s student code of conduct and the university’s administration is summoning her to a Senate disciplinary hearing.
Dalhousie’s position and actions are reprehensible. Suggestions that Khan’s comments were discriminatory toward white people are completely unfounded. There is no such thing as “reverse racism.”
Racism is the systemic manifestation of both power and privilege, and it cannot be disputed that Canada’s social structures have been built to systemically favour white people. As such, it cannot be stated that Khan’s comments reinforce racist relations of power and privilege in Canadian society. In fact, Khan was denouncing racism and rightfully dismissing defenses of national narratives that wash over colonial oppression.
Khan was expressing legitimate anger about racism and colonialism.
The irony in this situation – where a university that proclaims to value academic freedom and free speech penalizes a student for openly challenging oppressive power structures – would be laughable were it not deeply worrisome.
Characterizations of Masuma’s statement as “harassment” is a thinly veiled attempt to silence political dissent.
Women and people of color are disproportionately penalized for daring to speak out against the violence and injustices that they experience. As El Jones and others have pointed out, it was not so long ago that Dalhousie University dragged its heels in disciplining 13 white, male, and heterosexual dentistry students who explicitly threatened to rape their classmates in an online forum. During the scandal, the administration’s response was disgracefully slow as it hummed and hawed about damaging the futures of the perpetrators still held up as promising young men. Rarely is the same consideration given to racialized women. The double standard in this case cannot be more obvious.
Masuma Khan is a strong, outspoken, Muslim woman in a position of leadership. The vitriol she has been subjected to as a backlash to her firm resolve is a clear indicator of the racist and misogynistic attitudes that Khan is up against. In a time of increasing political polarization and Islamophobia, it is not surprising that a Muslim woman is experiencing harassment for daring to speak out about racism.
Attempts to silence Khan must be placed in a wider context. It was just a few days ago that Quebec passed a law denying access to social services to women wearing the niqab and burka. Less than a year has passed since six worshipers were gunned down mid-prayer at a Mosque. The violence and oppression experienced by Muslims in Canada is direct and overt.
Dalhousie University must see this complaint against Khan for what it is – an attempt to silence a Muslim woman and muzzle political dissent.