Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Katina Pollock


This dissertation explores the experiences of Muslim students in an urban public high school in Ontario with a reputation of having a large Muslim student presence. Much of the studies and surveys involving Islam and Muslims make evident that Islam is the most misunderstood religion in the world. Therefore, Muslims in the West are a “poorly understood” minority group (Environics Institute, 2016). While other ethnic or racial minorities feel moderately comfortable defending themselves and their groups, and asserting their identities, Muslim youth “face qualitatively different identity tasks than do many of their peers”, largely due to feelings of “being under attack or scrutiny because of their religion” (Stonebanks & Sensoy 2009). I used a case study approach to explore from different participant groups the challenges of and supports for Muslims students attending a public high school. I utilized semi-structured interviews with 32 participants, including students, teachers, parents, administrators, and the local Imam of the city. There were two main findings in this study: (a) the teachers, that I interviewed, lacked knowledge of Muslim values, faith, and practices, and had negative biases and preconceived notions of Islam and Muslims in a public high school; (b) the youth, in this interview, showed a deep longing to be acknowledged, understood, and respected for who they are. The six challenges most prominently faced by Muslim youth, as articulated in the literature review and guideline of different faiths provided by school boards to the schools, are: religious practices, dress code, sexual ethics, stereotypes and biases, Islamophobia, and curriculum-related challenges. These challenges seem to directly correspond to the daily challenges Muslims face when practicing their faith, and provide a vantage point whereby Muslim students can request accommodations. However, this study shows that, Muslim students want to go beyond mere accommodation. They long for spaces, in their school, that are free of any pressure to fight for their faith or to defend either of their multiple identities, as both Muslims and Canadians.

Keywords: Muslims, Islam, support, challenges, sexual ethics, gender interaction, hayaa, Islamophobia, Banks’s Multicultural Dimension, York, Giangreco, Vandercook, & Macdonald ’s Types of Support.