Through the campaign, @studentAsim hopes to engage community members from diverse backgrounds in an interactive digital storytelling exercise.
Like the first National Day of Remembrance for the Quebec City Mosque Attack and Action Against Islamophobia approaches on January 29, an artist set out to bring Canadians and the world together to take action against Islamophobia through digital storytelling.
The campaign, known as Islamophobia.io, calls on Canadians to stand in solidarity with the victims of the Quebec City Mosque Massacre by sharing a personal digital letter of remembrance.
“I wanted to do something that was immediate, that was instantaneous and that could bring about instant change,” says Asim Hussain, who prefers to call himself by his professional name, @studentAsim, a reference to his constant desire to learn while he tries to both improve himself and be of service to others.
“So I designed the whole concept around that…the idea of doing something about it and not hearing about it anymore.”
The scale of Islamophobia
This ‘container’ of true stories told by community members themselves is meant to keep the memories of the victims alive, says @studentAsim, and for people ‘to learn from Muslims and allies who have already shared their letters on the scale and urgency of Islamophobia.”
He says it’s important in the context of Growing harassment faced by Muslims in Canadaincluding two major violent incidents — the 2017 Quebec Mosque Massacre and the Afzaal family murder in London, Ontario in June 2021.
In @studentAsimFor , these stories are a way to dispel prejudice and foster understanding between people of diverse beliefs and backgrounds.
“It gets intimate because it’s…stories and letters from the public,” he says. “And so, it’s the public helping the public learn something that’s public…it’s a public phenomenon of Islamophobia. But that may not be on the minds of Canadians.
He says he repeatedly heard people, including people in positions of authority, say they did not realize the impact of Islamophobia on Muslims.
For example, when a Quebec teacher reassigned for wearing hijab under Bill 21many wrote that they hadn’t realized how serious it was, he said, even though the bill banning people in government positions from wearing religious symbols had already been in place for two years.
“So it’s dangerous, isn’t it?” says @studentAsim. “Because it’s a narrative that people don’t see, but it also parallels your own narrative.”
The art of countering hate
Islamophobia.io stems from @studentAsim’s belief in the role of art and creativity in countering hate.
In the clip above, @studentAsim explains the thinking behind his design for the Islamophobia.io campaign and the power of art to counter hate.
The campaign website was designed be simple, reducing barriers to access as much as possible, he says. People can submit their stories easily through a online form. Stories can be written in any style and be of any length, and can even be submitted anonymously.
The idea for the project was born about 10 years ago when @studentAsim decided to collect stories about Ramadan. Receiving stories from people from different parts of the world reinforced her belief in the value of this outreach.
He started working specifically on Islamophobia.io in 2019, hoping the campaign would be ready for Ramadan that year, but the pandemic and technological challenges delayed the launch.
In his eyes, the Islamophobia.io The platform is unique in that it provides a repository of stories hosted in one place, with the “curation method” focused on change. Viewers can easily see key information of shared stories such as title, creed, and writer’s age, then decide which stories to click on to learn more.
He chose to use digital stories because in addition to the medium’s scalability, it has wide reach and potential for lasting impact.
“I guarantee someone will read your letter,” says @studentAsim.
“And that letter will be around January 30. And the next day, and the next day, and the next day, because the letters are digital. The letters will be kept. So, they will make a perpetual change after January 29th. And that’s what interests me. »
Mobilize different communities
As a child of Pakistani immigrants, @studentAsim experienced members of the South Asian community “all herded together” in Canada, regardless of culture and religion.
He also wants to be able to collect stories from others who experience prejudice because they may appear Muslim, such as the Sikh community. Ideally, he says, the platform will provide opportunities for different types of stories to be curated from and for different audiences.
So far, he has received almost 100 letters from people of very different ages and backgrounds.
“People expressed their solidarity; they spoke directly to the victims. They reached out to the families of the victims,” says @studentAsim.
“Some people have talked about not even imagining living without a parent. … Other people have said, ‘It’s not my experience, but reading the letters here, I really understand the magnitude of this event and the extent of Islamophobia, extent of prejudice’.
For @studentAsim, connecting with people who understand and believe in this project is far more important than the number of letters received.
He was particularly moved by what one young person wrote:“It doesn’t matter even if this act goes unnoticed, I’m still going to do it, because it matters.”
“Even if one person wrote a letter, it still means the world,” says @studentAsim. “I appreciate every unique experience.”
I thought of you long before
The world is a digital place
And our voices too
The platform is simple
So easy to change
You are invited
When the victims call us from their position of rest,
They are really the ones who are retired
We are accessories…
This story was produced as part of the special project “NCM – Village Media Advanced Training and Mentorship for Immigrant Journalists”.
artCOMMUNITYDigital CampaignIslamophobiaNational Day of Remembrance of the Quebec Mosque Attack and action against IslamophobiaQuebecQuebec City Mosque shootingstories