Muslim Social Services Waterloo Region stands in solidarity with the Indigenous nations and communities in light of the news of a mass grave of 215 Indigenous children that was found at the Kamploops Residential School in BC. We mourn the loss of these 215 innocent lives and all the other lives lost that are yet to be accounted for due to the genocides of Indigenous Peoples through the residential school system. We stand with their families and loved ones, grieving with them.
As settlers, we must do better to support the work of reconciliation and support the efforts of liberation of Indigenous people and their right for sovereignty. We must understand that we cannot truly eradicate Islamophobia and other forms of racism unless we also call out and work towards fighting anti-Indigenous racism and colonialism. At MSS, we commit to doing this necessary work and build our capacity for meaningful reconciliatory and solidarity work.
In the coming days we will share resources to keep the conversation going, to educate ourselves, and to implement the awareness into action.
The Muslim Social Services Board
To our friends and correspondents on our website,
Muslim Social Services Waterloo Region (MSS) stands in solidarity with the Palestinian community locally and globally. We are aware of the tragic attacks on worshippers at Masjid Al-Aqsa during the holy month of Ramadan and of the homes stolen from Palestinians in East Jerusalem. The killings and bombing in Gaza are horrific and violate many International laws and human rights . We note that although there has been a ceasefire, the violence experienced by Palestinians and dispossession of land under settler colonialism continues. The ongoing violence has deeply affected our Muslim brothers and sisters around the world and in our region, particularly the members of the Palestinian community.
As a social service organization offering culturally and spiritually-sensitive counselling, mental health, and community supports, we recognize the deep impact of the individual and collective trauma of witnessing and experiencing loss of life and violence of this scale. In the Region of Waterloo, MSS provides group and individual counseling and will be offering programs for children and adults during the summer. In the meantime, if you are looking for supports during these difficult and trying times, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us!
Lastly, we urge our Canadian governments to divest from monetary support to Israel for military equipment and to work toward the end of apartheid in Israel-Palestine. We urge to invest in the re-building of Gaza, and to facilitate access to health, education, and social services, essential amenities that have been eroded due to the violence.
The Muslim Social Services Board
Muslim Social Services Waterloo Region (MSS) is extremely disappointed to learn of the social media posts made by a staff member, Diwakar M Sharma, who works at Laurieras Regional Manager: International Recruitment. Wilfrid Laurier University has a wonderfully diverse student body of many faiths and ethnicities. We have learned of and read Mr. Sharma’s social media account and are upset at the hate speech, especially toward Muslims, including those supporting the Palestinian movement for liberation as they were framed as “jehadis”. These comments are Islamophobic and are harmful to members of the Laurier and broader community.
Mr. Sharma does not project an image that will attract Muslim students. In fact, many current students have been very disturbed by his posts. MSS has been working with many Muslim students from Wilfrid Laurier University and supporting them through its programs and services since Ramadan. We have received many student disclosures about feeling deeply impacted by Mr. Sharma’s comments. In light of this and against the backdrop of the ongoing experiences of Islamophobia locally and globally, students are experiencing a sense of not feeling safe, cared for, and belonged in the university given this staff’s hateful comments.
How can WLU be a campus where all faiths and ethnicities are respect and communicate with each other when the regional manager of International Recruitment is posting Islamophobic posts on social media? As a community organization, we have been providing counselling and supports to those impacted by Mr. Sharma’s troubling posts, including students from Wilfrid Laurier University. From this place of witnessing the impact of these harmful posts and the lived experiences of ongoing Islamophobia on students, we urge the University to take the necessary action toward Mr. Sharma for the damage he has caused. He harms the reputation of WLU. He will cause more tension and problems on the campus if there is not accountability for his actions. In addition, we request the University administration to work towards a long-term strategy to address the root causes of Islamophobia on campus so students of Muslim faith can feel supported during their education. Please keep us informed as you decide how to proceed.
Dr. Engin Sezen, Executive Director
Dr. Brice Balmer, Co-chairman