Courageous Conversations: Islamophobia and becoming an ally to the Muslim community

The recent deadly attack on a Muslim family in London, Ont., has sparked a deeper conversation at Walmart Canada about Islamophobia.

On Tuesday, Nabeela Ixtabalan, Walmart Canada’s executive vice-president of People and Corporate Affairs, was joined by Aasiyah Khan, manager of education programs at the National Council of Canadian Muslims, to discuss Islamophobia, deepen our knowledge and awareness about the Muslim experience in Canada and discover ways to be an ally to the Muslim community.

The event was part of Walmart Canada’s “Courageous Conversation” series hosted for associates to share and discuss important societal issues on diversity, equity, inclusion and well-being.

“I come to you as a Muslim who’s been deeply affected by recent events,” Nabeela told the more than 500 people in attendance for the virtual event before sharing her own experience as a woman of colour.

Islamophobia is a complex issue that affects us all differently, Aasiyah said. Don’t underestimate the degree to which the misrepresentation and vilification of Muslims can build stereotypes and biases in what we read, hear and see in media.

“Hate in any form is extremely dangerous,” Aasiyah told the virtual audience. “If you’re racialized, you could be a target of Islamophobia.”

The Muslim community is an extremely diverse group, she added.

She said that the hateful incidents are not isolated. Online hate groups are extremely active and we can’t shy away from the fact that Canada has a white supremacist problem.

They said that the first step for all of us is to improve our knowledge and understanding of Islam. Engage, learn and be intentional about the information we consume.

“It’s hard to hate someone if you see their humanity,” she added.

Nabeela said it’s more important now than ever before to be an ally. Have conversations with people. Take customer experiences very seriously. Ask people how they’re doing. Focus on creating a safe space for the people around you.

You can be an ally by adopting the “one square metre approach.” Ask yourself: What can I do? What can I do in my role? What can I do in my function? What can we do using our size and scale to make a difference with this social movement to address systemic bias and co-create a workplace that is truly this place where everyone is included?

With more than 100,000 Walmart Canada associates, if each of us engages in one act of belonging a month, we can collectively create more than one million acts of belonging in a year.

And remember, it’s OK to not be OK. Reach out if you need help.

The next Courageous Conversation is June 28 with Kelly J. Lendsay, president and CEO of Indigenous Works. The conversation will focus on understanding Indigenous history, residential schools, and the impact of anti-Indigenous racism.