Lindork’s Lists – Q&A #27: Dr. Muna Saleh
Note: this is the public version of my email newsletter Q&A that gets sent to paid subscriber inboxes first every other Sunday. You can get these Q&As in your inbox first by becoming a paid subscriber.
Originally published to newsletter subscribers on April 10, 2022
The twenty-seventh person I’m profiling in my newsletter subscriber Q&A series is:
Dr. Muna Saleh, educator, researcher and community-based advocate
Getting to know Dr. Muna Saleh:
Dr. Muna Saleh is a local educator, researcher and community-based advocate, who I first came to know through Twitter. Muna was sharing a lot of education around Palestine (#FreePalestine) and anti-racism, and to be very honest, it felt like her tweets were my first real exposure to this conflict (despite how long it’s been going on) Perhaps that highlights the serious lack of understanding that Canadians / people in the West have on what’s going on. As Muna recommends below, The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine by Rashid Khalidi, should be something you read to learn more. (I just ordered the book from local Glass Bookshop!)
Muna was on a Twitter break at the time of this Q&A (unfortunately because speaking out about Palestine and on anti-racism, especially as a Palestinian Muslim woman, brings out seriously the worst people on the Internet). But as of the public posting of this Q&A, I tell you, she’s a must follow @DrMunaSaleh. She’s super funny, smart, and through initially following Muna, I now follow a few of her other family members and can confirm they’re all amazing people.
Fun fact: Muna’s family owns Ralph’s Handi Mart in Strathearn, home to some of the best fried chicken in the city! I’m actually doing a feature on their famous convenience store fried chicken for an upcoming Travel Alberta video!
I appreciate Dr. Muna Saleh taking the time to share about herself for this Q&A and I’m excited for you to learn more about her too.
Let’s Dive Into the Q&A with Dr. Muna Saleh:
Can you describe the work you do (as an educator, in curriculum studies and social studies) and how long you have been doing it?
In my work as an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Education at Concordia University of Edmonton (CUE), I teach prospective, pre-service, and in-service educators in CUE’s undergraduate, after-degree, and Master’s level. My PhD is in curriculum studies and teacher education, and I have since really focused on social studies (teacher) education that is rooted in trying to teach in ways that live out different stories (rather than perpetuating dominant narratives).
My narrative research explores the intersectional (I am referring to Kimberle Crenshaw’s framework) of Muslim women, mothers, children, youth, and families who are making a life in what is now known as Canada.
As a Palestinian Muslim woman, mother, scholar, and educator born and raised in amiskwaciy-wâskahikan in Treaty 6 lands, my doctoral research was rooted in my wonders around how dominant narratives shape my children’s (and other Muslim children and youths’) experiences both in and out of school places.
Since then, I have researched the experiences of Muslim mothers of dis/abled children with refugee experiences, and I am currently in the process of planning a research project around the experiences of Palestinian Muslim children, youth, and families in familial, community, and schooling contexts.
I think you’re really interesting because you use social media to call out racism, particularly calling out Islamophobia and raising awareness about what is happening in Palestine, along with other social issues, unapologetically, despite a lot of really disgusting responses you get along the way. Can you talk about why you started using social media in this way—was it intentional or did it just kind of happen? And why is it important for you to use your platform in this way?
I started using social media about three years ago to find or form a community of educators who are engaging in anti-racism work. Maybe it was because I was not on social media for almost 40 years of my life, but I was not expecting the misogyny and racism I experienced on an almost daily basis for existing on the internet as an unapologetic (and opinionated) Palestinian Muslim woman in hijab.
I wanted to use whatever platform I had as a form of mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors (more about this powerful framing can be found in this article written by Rudine Sims Bishop). My primary goal was for other women who are Muslim and/or Palestinian and/or in hijab and/or educators to see themselves reflected (particularly in Alberta).
I don’t want you to relive trauma so if you aren’t comfortable sharing this, please just skip it, but I was wondering if you could share the type of responses you get from people when you post about Islamophobia, freeing Palestine, anti-racism, and how you deal with racists and negativity online? Also acknowledging you get a lot of people who loudly support you as well.
I won’t sugarcoat it—my pretty regular experiences with gendered racism (including anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian racism) on Twitter have been difficult to navigate. I’m actually currently not on Twitter anymore for this reason. I found that vitriol was seeping into my everyday life and thoughts. It’s not healthy and no one should be made to deal with that. However, as you point out, I have been really supported by friends (many of whom I have never met in person!) who would push back against the vitriol.
Is there any message you can share about why people should speak out against racism, and use their platforms for good?
I struggle with the word “should” here because everyone has different capacities related to online engagement. I think my message would be to be as authentic as you can be, while understanding that your authenticity may be weaponized against you. This is why having a community that has your back is so vital. I’d also add that while I believe in the power of sharing our stories, I’m more aware of how and when and where and why I do so because not everyone will take care of the stories we share.
Why did you get into teaching and education? What do you love about it (can you articulate why you do what you do in the education space?)
I first decided to pursue teaching over 20 ago because I love children and also loved the sense of inspiration and fulfilment when a child I was tutoring would make connections to what we’re discussing.
However, over the last twenty years, I have come to realize that I too was un/learning because of the children and youth in my life, and that I have always engaged in un/learning within familial and community contexts. This is why much of my research and teaching focuses on familial and community knowledge.
Can you share a memorable moment or ‘successes’ in your career / life?
It’s interesting because my ideas/conceptualizations of “success” continue to evolve over time. When I was younger, I thought “success” was achieving good grades (and other dominant stories of “success”). Increasingly, I’ve come to appreciate that “success” looks different for different people in different contexts. The moment(s) that brings me joy involve times where I’ve stayed true to myself, my communities, and the intergenerational teachings/wisdoms that I try to live by even (especially) when it is really challenging to do so.
Can you share a challenging moment, obstacles or failure in your career / life? And perhaps what you learned from it or how you overcame it?
I try to understand and appreciate how the times that challenge me the most are actually invitations for me to grow as a person and a community member. I think about how it has always taken a community (of friends and family) for me to navigate the (systemic) barriers I’ve encountered in different contexts. So I try my best to not only navigate through these barriers as one person, but how alongside others I try to ensure that the barriers either aren’t there, or at the very least aren’t as rigid, for those who come after me.
Can you share advice for others who might be interested in getting into education? Or even social activism?
Community, community, community. The best advice I can give (in my experience) is to try to build and sustain a community in as many places and in as many ways as possible. This is especially important if you will be teaching and engaging in the world in anti-racist and anti-oppressive ways (or in any way that challenges dominant narratives).
I think it’s really cool that your family sort of feels like you’re all actively on Twitter, very smart and funny people, and it’s become I think locally, a must to follow the Saleh sisters. Can you talk about what it’s like tweeting when your family is so active online too and definitely seeing your takes?
I’m currently off Twitter, so I do miss the banter that we engaged in online. My three sisters and I have a really tight relationship alhamdulillah, and I love that we were able to tease each other and just be our full, authentic selves as Palestinian Muslim women in hijab in online spaces. My eldest is on Twitter, actually had notification alerts on my tweets (!), and would often tell me to please stop embarrassing her lol
Can you tell me about your hobbies! What do you do for fun?
I love to read. It has always been my favourite thing to do. I also love watching movies and going out with my family and friends.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your work professionally, personally, or anything that I’ve missed that you’d like mentioned?
I don’t typically name my children in anything online, but they are 19 years old, 16 years old, and 9 years old and, alongside their Dad, they are my world.
Wrapping up our Q&A:
What show would you recommend people watch on Netflix?
Is there a book or podcast you recently read (or doesn’t have to be recent) that you would recommend to others and why?
The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine by Rashid Khalidi.
What is one of your favourite local restaurants or stores you’d recommend?
Ralph’s Handi Mart has the best chicken and spuds in the city (don’t be deceived by the look of the place). I’m not saying that just because it’s my parents’ place lol, it’s truly so good. Also Elfino has amazing shawarma.
- Note from Linda: I recently did a Travel Alberta video on Ralph’s Handi Mart! Check it out.
What’s something about Alberta you love or recommend others check out?
I cannot get enough of the River Valley. I know that it’s pretty well known, but I feel like I find something new to love about it (and surrounding areas) every time I walk there.
Thanks Muna, for sharing your story!
You can connect with Dr. Muna Saleh on:
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