Masuma Khan is mak­ing his­tory

The Dal­housie stu­dent and out­spo­ken po­lit­i­cal activist wants to bet­ter her home­town of Hal­i­fax. Just try and stop her.



the last year, Masuma Khan has led thou­sands of stu­dents into the streets to protest high tu­ition fees, spoke at the lo­cal Women’s March on Wash­ing­ton and or­ga­nized a public vigil af­ter the deadly Que­bec City mosque shoot­ing. The 22-year-old is also vice-pres­i­dent aca­demic and ex­ter­nal for the Dal­housie Stu­dent Union, works with the school’s Sex­ual Ha­rass­ment and As­sault Re­source Group, or­ga­nizes public lec­tures to com­bat Is­lam­o­pho­bia and is the out­go­ing­pres­i­dent of Dal’s Mus­lim Stu­dent As­so­ci­a­tion. In be­tween all those roles, she’s also an in­ter­na­tional devel­op­ment stud­ies stu­dent en­ter­ing her fourth year of study.

So un­der­stand­ably, she’s tired. But Khan’s fa­tigue isn’t from her sched­ule. She’s tired of deal­ing with “all the BS” in the world—the bull­shit that comes with be­ing an Afghan woman, a Mus­lim woman, a dis­abled woman (two spinal surg­eries over her univer­sity ca­reer). It’s what drives her fight for progress, Khan says. She couldn’t live with her­self if she didn’t.

Here the stu­dent leader talks about her her­itage, racism in Hal­i­fax and the DSU’s con­tro­ver­sial year. She had a lot to say. This in­ter­view has been edited for style, clar­ity and length.

My mom was a bit of a fem­i­nist activist as well. Grow­ing up, see­ing a Mus­lim woman giv­ing speeches in Vic­to­ria Park, my mom re­ally in­stilled that kind of ac­tivism in me. Hers was more about women’s rights and anti-war ac­tivism, and mine is just kind of ev­ery­where. I don’t think we can af­fect change by just help­ing Indige­nous groups; just help­ing Black folks; just help­ing queer folks. We need to have a multi-tier ef­fect. When you see how white supremacy is tied to anti-Black­ness, Is­lam­o­pho­bia—it’s a BOGO. You buy one, you get the other for free. that hu­man be­ings ac­tu­ally have in or­ga­niz­ing. Once you meet, at a rally or what­ever, there’s an ex­change ideas and we grow as a com­mu­nity. I know some peo­ple don’t think that’s life-chang­ing, but for me that is. When I hear what a queer per­son goes through, for me that’s life-chang­ing. Now I have a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing. If I’m mis­gen­der­ing some­one, know­ing that I can be a less op­pres­sive per­son—even though the sys­tem won’t change, even if noth­ing changes, we will change. We will bet­ter our­selves and even­tu­ally it will be­come bet­ter. I feel ac­tivists are kind of born out of univer­sity and the op­pres­sive prac­tices that dif­fer­ent uni­ver­si­ties have. But I do feel there is an up­roar be­cause of what’s hap­pen­ing in places like Char­lottesville. The thing that’s scary is there are two sides. I guess that’s why I do a lot of ed­u­ca­tion stuff in the Dal­housie com­mu­nity. A lot of peo­ple don’t re­al­ize that racism hap­pens on our cam­pus. Not yet. The re­al­ity is stu­dents who are part of the alt-right are or­ga­niz­ing all across Canada. I’m kind of wait­ing be­cause I think it’s go­ing to be a mat­ter of time be­fore it hap­pens here. The thought’s there. Some stu­dents are very anti-Indige­nous, anti-Black, anti-Mus­lim, anti-ev­ery­thing. I was at the Pride [An­nual Gen­eral Meet­ing]. Even my­self as a non-queer or trans per­son, be­ing in that space just as a mi­nor­ity was so op­pres­sive—the looks, the stares. Peo­ple al­ways have a hard time de­scrib­ing what racism is, and in that room it was like the air was racist. The de­ci­sion was made af­ter that [by the pre­vi­ous DSU council], and we’re go­ing to re­visit the boy­cott. It’s go­ing to come back up again this year. If [Hal­i­fax Pride] does bet­ter, if they ac­tu­ally do some com­mu­nity con­sul­ta­tion, it’ll come back. It wasn’t a for­ever thing, it was just an act of sol­i­dar­ity.

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