Niagara University in Ontario launched the first of its four-part Critical Conversation Series on June 30. Dr. Patricia Briscoe, associate professor in the College of Education’s leadership department, is moderating the series, which will take place bi-weekly via Zoom. Motivated by the recent attack on a Muslim family in London, Ontario, and statistics that indicate hate crimes against Muslims in Canada grew 253% between 2012 and 2015, the series began with a discussion on “Dismantling Islamophobia.”

Panelists Dr. Zuhra Abawi, Dr. Asma Ahmed, and Sama Androon shared their personal and professional experiences of Islamophobia and how they debunk myths about Islam and Muslims. The conversation offered opportunities for those in attendance to ask questions and share their own experiences.

Dr. Abawi is an assistant professor of education at Niagara University in Ontario who previously worked as an elementary teacher and early childhood educator. Her work focuses on how discourses of race, equity, and identity are mediated and negotiated. She is particularly interested in teacher hiring practices and is the author of “The Effectiveness of Educational Policy for Bias Free Teacher Hiring: Critical Insights to Enhance Diversity in the Canadian Teacher Workforce,” and co-editor of “Equity as Praxis in Early Childhood Education and Care.” She is also the recipient of the 2022 AILACTE Scholar Award, which is given to support research related to the impact of teacher preparation.

Dr. Ahmed has worked as a certified teacher in K-12 settings both in public and private schools. Her current research focus is on the experience of Muslim students in public schools and private Islamic schools in Ontario, culturally responsive pedagogy, and anti-Islamophobia education, with a goal of supporting and creating a more equitable education system. Her recent work is a chapter on culturally responsive pedagogy published by Cambridge University Press. She holds a Ph.D. in critical policy and educational leadership from Western University.

Androon is a recent graduate from Niagara University in Ontario’s BPS program and is pursuing her Master of Science in Educational Leadership at NU. Currently the program leader for the Enhanced Character Education Program in a private school, she has been working in the education field locally and internationally for the last 10 years. She is profoundly passionate about education, community advocacy, and promoting social justice and the pivotal roles in establishing equitable and inclusive spaces in our schools and the Canadian society at large.

Future conversations in the series include Anti Black Racism on Wednesday, July 14; LGBTQ2+ on Wednesday, July 28; and Minoritized Parents in Education on Wednesday, Aug. 11. All take place from 3:30-4:45 p.m.

Your Thoughts