Gurpreet Singh: UBC prof Sunera Thobani honoured for standing up against Islamophobia

    1 of 4 2 of 4

      As part of its Hands Up Against Racism campaign, Spice Radio celebrated UBC professor Sunera Thobani for her human-rights work on Saturday (March 11).

      Thobani, a former head of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, has been on the forefront of battling Islamophobia.

      The Hands Up Against Racism campaign was launched on Martin Luther King’s Birthday in 2015 by the the station's CEO, Shushma Datt. 

      Now in its third year, it's been widely recognized across Greater Vancouver, with this year's event taking place at the Roundhouse Community Centre.

      Datt has been a vocal critic of racial intolerance and Islamophobic and sexist views of the U.S. president Donald Trump. She believes that with Trump in the White House and racism growing once again in North America, her campaign has become even more relevant.

      Spice Radio CEO Shushma Datt had her hand painted in recognition of the colourful Hindu holiday of Holi.
      Gurpreet Singh

      This year in an attempt to show solidarity with Muslims and women in light of Trump’s rhetoric, she decided to honour Thobani, who endured a serious racist backlash in the wake of 9/11.   

      Thobani, a Muslim by faith, enraged many U.S. sympathizers for questioning American government policies that led to the 9/11 attacks. For that, she's received hate mail.

      Last year, Spice Radio honoured Baltej Dhillon, the first turbaned Sikh officer to join the RCMP, who endured racism within and outside the police force. As a previous recipient of the award, he was asked to present this year’s award to Thobani at a colourful ceremony held at the Roundhouse Community Centre.

      Indigenous activist Kat Norris attended a residential school on Kuiper Island.
      Gurpreet Singh

      After receiving the award, Thobani reminded the gathering that structural racism continues in the lives of indigenous peoples of Canada. She added that all settler immigrants need to stand up for them to fight back against this injustice.

      An indigenous activist and residential school survivor Kat Norris also spoke at the event. Others who spoke included former neo-Nazi Tony MacAleer, now part of an initiative called Life After Hate, which inspires young people to veer away from racism extricate themselves from hate groups.

      Through a group called Life After Hate, Tony McAleer steers young people away from racism.
      Gurpreet Singh
      Gurpreet Singh is a Georgia Straight contributor and a founder of Radical Desi. He's working on a book tentatively titled Canada's 9/11: Lessons from the Air India Bombings