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Islamophobia affecting the mental health of London youth: researchers

14:22 12 October 2022 Author :  

Incidents of Islamophobia are commonplace in the London region, leading to lasting negative impacts on the mental health of the community, including its youth, a King’s University College researcher says.

“In Ontario there has been an increase in Islamophobia (incidents) of 250 per cent from 2012 to 2016,” said Siham Elkassem, a Muslim professor, social worker and researcher. ”The last stat we have in London is a 46 per cent rise in hate-motivated crimes.”

Elkassem will speak Thursday at the relaunch of King’s Centre for Interreligious Learning and Dialogue, formerly the Centre for Jewish-Catholic-Muslim Learning, about what Islamophobia looks like in the Forest City and its lasting effects.

She studies the mental health implications of Islamophobia and general discrimination on racialized communities in London, an area she said is under-researched.

In her most recent project, Elkassem interviewed 25 London Muslim youth four months after an alleged hate-motivated attack killed four members of London’s Afzaal family while they were out for a walk on June 6, 2021. Police allege the family was targeted because of their Islamic faith.

The youth expressed “a heightened sense of hypervigilance,” Elkassem said. “Females talked about being afraid to go out, being afraid to go walk, or out by themselves.”

“It affects their sense of self, their identity and has serious implications on their mental health. It can cause anxiety and depression.”

Elkassem said she accumulated 150 pages of findings that included acts of violence, as well as explicit and subtle forms of racism at work, in school and in the community.

“(Those acts) gives the message they don’t belong here,” she said.  “It’s going to impact (the youth’s) sense of self, their identify and ultimately their mental wellness.”

“It can impede on their learning and ability to flourish.”

The talk will also feature an overview of the centre’s vision and activities by director Julius-Kei Kato.

The event takes place Thursday at 6 p.m. in the Labatt Hall lobby of King’s.

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