Islam, Muslims, and Qualitative Inquiry

Date: Friday, 22 May 2020

Description: The religion of Islam and the wide variety of Muslims who are followers and/or culturally connected to Islam have long been the object of study by non-Muslim nations (e.g. England, France, USA, Canada, etc.). Often researched, defined and spoken about, Muslims (both in the socially constructed “East” and “West”) find themselves the subject of a discourse which is overwhelmingly fixed in perceptions of being a problem in need of a solution. Qualitative Research is often purported as facilitating voice for the voiceless, yet research regarding Muslims have typically reduced the subject of the study to positions of passivity. The objective of this special interest group is to critically examine past and current qualitative methods of research regarding Islam and Muslims and strive towards practices that empower from within and benefit society as a whole.

Participation in Panel/Roundtable Discussions and Workshop: If you would like to participate (present or attend) in any of the discussions or workshops below, please contact the chair, moderator or animator by email for specific details/requirements. (final submission deadline is March 1, 2020)


9:00 AM: Welcome by Dr. Naved Bakali (Assistant Professor, American University in Dubai) and Aamir Aman (Graduate Student, McGill University)

9:15 AM: Introduction to Special Interest Group by Dr. Uzma Jamil (Fellow in Muslim Studies, Chicago Theological Seminary and Visiting Scholar, McGill University), titled, “How do we study the Muslim Subject?”

9:45 AM: Panel Discussion (50 Minutes)

Title: “The Hijab and the Secular Public Education Space; “spoken for and spoken at, but not heard”

Panel Chair: Dr. Seema Iman (Professor, National Louis University) email: Panel Abstract: This panel discussion opens the door on hijab (Muslim women’s dress and head

covering) often worn, explored and contemplated by young Muslim girls and Muslim women as they

progress through their personal thoughts and convictions of faith in the midst of secular public education spaces from early grades through high school, as future teachers and as educators. As Islam and Muslims are so publicly and negatively discussed and positioned, how do young girls and Muslim women navigate an Islamophophic landscape? Whether it be laws prohibiting the wearing of the Hijab by public servants, or social stigma and “western values” Muslim women are subjected to numerous forces that discourage them practising their understanding of their religion. Who speaks to these young girls in their hijab, bullies them, disempowers them, shifting and shuffling their ideas, and dashing their dreams? What if any of their voices and concerns surface or are allowed to be heard? How many girls drop the idea of ever wearing hijab? Are public school spaces, teachers and administrators required to validate and respect freedom of religion? This panel brings Qualitative Research and voices with a critical perspective to discuss the lived realities of Muslim girls and Muslim women learning and teaching in secular public education spaces.

10:45 AM: Roundtable Discussion

Title: “Qualitative Research, Islam and Muslims as tools of Resistance or in service of Empire”

Moderator: Dr. C. Darius Stonebanks (Professor, Bishop’s University/Adjunct Professor, McGill University) email:

Roundtable Abstract: Whether it is Dabashi’s “intellectual comprador” (2011) or Akhavan et al.’s (2007) “genre in service of empire”, qualitative publications (like the popular memoire style) on the subject of Islam and Muslims and their authors have been critiqued as to who these forms of research actually benefit and for what purpose. A small, but growing, number of academics, public intellectuals and activists are questioning whether or not the kinds of qualitative research that is accepted and promoted in academia, and the more popular public sphere, actually reflects a group that is largely omitted from positions in which they are able to freely communicate experience. Rather, the types of research that gain greater acceptance are those that favour stories that fuel Islamophobic public discourse, contributing to the stereotypes of Islam as a monolith, reinforcing the belief of Muslims as anti-modern and, ultimately, endorsing the option that the only solution to the “Muslim problem” is a military one. Participants of this roundtable discussion will question how qualitative research has been used as a means to supress many Muslim voices in favour of those that continuously express a “problem with Islam” approach and seek potential directions that will empower.

Participation from audience members will be encouraged.

11:45 AM: General Comments from participants on morning discussions. 12:00 PM: Break (50 Minutes)

1:00 PM: Panel Discussion: “Islamophobia in the Current Political Climate” 

Panel Chair: Dr. Uzma Jamil (Fellow in Muslim Studies, Chicago Theological Seminary and Visiting Scholar, McGill University) email:

Panel Abstract: The increasingly mainstream presence of far-right political discourses and the heightened visibility of white nationalist and supremacist groups have polarized the political climate in recent years in and across the US, Canada, UK and Europe. This polarization is associated with increased Islamophobia, xenophobia, racism and discrimination directed towards all those who are perceived to be “outside” the nation, including Muslims, racialized minorities, migrants, etc. This panel examines how Islamophobia operates as part of this political climate and its consequences and implications in more depth. It is open to theoretically and empirically-oriented papers that discuss Islamophobia in its many forms, as part of national and/or transnational analyses. Some themes are: 

  • Islamophobia and the far-right
  • Islamophobia and politics on the left
  • Islamophobia and racialization
  • Islamophobia and white supremacy and/or white nationalism

2:00 PM: Workshop (50 minutes) 

Title: “Islamophobia, Academia and Representation”

Animator: Dr. Hicham Tiflati (Professor, John Abbott College; Quebec Regional Director, the Center for Civic Religious Literacy) email:

Description: Dr. Tiflati is an internationally recognized academic working with professionals both inside and out of the Muslim community. His presentations cover a wide variety of subjects from confronting Islamophobia to developing a more nuanced understanding of radicalization. In keeping with the “Repressive Times” theme of ICQI 2020, we have asked Dr. Tiflati to develop an interactive workshop on the manner in which Western Academia intersects with Islamophobia and the complicated relationship Muslims in Higher Education have with fields related to diversity, social justice and anti-discrimination. As well, he will speak on the underrepresentation of employment and voice of Muslims in these spaces while at the same time being the very subject of study. Please join us in what is assured to be an interesting conversation on the lived realities of representation, Islamophobia and the world of Academia.

3 PM: Workshop (50 minutes) 

Title: “Muslim Experiences within Individualistic and Collectivistic Cultures”

Animator: May Al-Fartousi (Scholar and Activist) email:

Description: Due to the complex religious diversity of Muslims’ experiences, as well as the different interpretations rooted from individualistic and Non-Western collectivistic culture, this workshop is tailored to exploring non-judgmental stands that create possibilities for multiple discourses that incorporate the various narratives of Muslim experiences in Canada and the United States of America. In this workshop, authenticity for Muslim research is examined through vivid examples of representation, the positionality of insiders and outsiders, and the positive shared language that gives hope and advances the future of Muslim research.

4:00 PM: Closing Comments by Naved Bakali and Aamir Aman, General Comments from participants and Direction for the Future.

5:00 PM: Break

7:00 PM – 8:30 PM: Qualitative Research in Action. Screening of “The Way Out”.

Description: Please join us for a viewing of the 2019 Canadian Screen Award nominated (Barbara Sears Award for Best Visual Research) documentary that examines stories of radicalization and rehabilitation of young Canadian Muslims. The Barbara Sears Award for Best Visual Research nominee, Dr. Hicham Tiflati, will be present to respond to questions and discuss the ethical balance of doing research in subjects that are vitally important to the Muslim community, but can be twisted to Islamophobic purposes.

Please contact Dr. C. Darius Stonebanks at if you have any questions. All are welcome join us for discussions that will shape this Qualitative Inquiry Congress special interest group!