Masuma Khan Pushes On, Knee Deep in Prejudice

A Halifax-based campaigner for social justice and indigenous rights continues to be harassed by anti-immigration activists. On September 19, moments before she was to give a speech in Fredericton, N.B., Masuma Khan was confronted by a video-camera wielding woman who questioned her right to be in Canada.

Khan is of Afghani descent, often wears a long dress and covers her hair with a scarf, and speaks critically of the effects of European colonisation on her homeland and on the Indigenous peoples of North America.

She received wide attention in the commercial press in 2017 when the Dalhousie University Student Union passed a motion, introduced by her, not to participate in the Canada 150 celebration. The move was intended to show solidarity with the Mi’Kmaq: the pre-colonial inhabitants of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and eastern New Brunswick.

Following the DSU’s decision, Khan became the recipient of high levels of verbal and emotional abuse ─ including death threats, suggestions that she mutilate herself, and that she leave the country ─ delivered via email, telephone, letter mail, social media, and in person. She reports having been followed on the Dalhousie campus by people who shoot video of her as a form of intimidation.

The Fredericton video-shooter approached her at the front of the lecture hall where she was to speak, and, assuming the manner of a news reporter, asked her the single question: “Do you agree that all immigrants should have to leave the country?”

The person was prevented from approaching further by a New Brunswick indigenous Chief who stood in front of her, and pointed out that she too was an immigrant, that she was on his unceded territory, and would she please leave the room? After a few minutes’ argument, she did.

Khan proceeded to speak to an appreciative audience of approximately 50 people about her experiences as an activist in Halifax, and about the importance of solidarity between the Indigenous peoples of this continent and those of other continents who have been similarly affected by modern imperialism. She also spoke of her experience, even prior to her political activism, of racial and ethnic prejudice, such as exclusion and being called a “terrorist”.

In a 2017 roundtable discussion, Khan and Halifax social justice activists El Jones and Jade Byard Peek, all women of colour, all reported that the level of verbal and emotional attacks directed at their bodies was higher than in the previous year.

Khan was elected Vice President External and Academic of the Dalhousie Student Union in 2017, and re-elected in 2018. She was born at a hospital beside the Dalhousie campus; her mother was born in Afghanistan.

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