When you step into the office of Irfan Chaudhry, the director of The Human Rights, Diversity and Equity office at MacEwan University, it’s clear what the man behind the new podcast “The Common Ground” is passionate about: fighting hate.
On the walls behind his desk are posters appropriate to the topic. One such poster advertises “Stop Hate Alberta,” a website that Chaudry helped to launch in 2017 that is dedicated to documenting hate crimes. The site is a place where victims who have experienced a hate crime can feel safe and report their experience.
In the same vein, Chaudhry explores the narrative of hate and counter-hate in Alberta in his podcast, started with cohost Iman Bukhari.
Chaudhry and Bukhair, founder of the Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation, started thinking about the creation of the podcast back in 2015, when a very strong global anti-immigrant, anti-refugee rhetoric was amplified during the Syrian Refugee Crisis. Following that, the 2017 Quebec mosque shooting pushed Chaudhry to create “Stop Hate Alberta,” and birthed the idea of the podcast.
“I was observing the way in which there was no real way of discussing these topics outside of ‘hate commenting’ on Facebook,” said Chaudhry.
“The podcast is really looking at different ways in which we’ve observed hate occurring in our province, but also how we’ve observed counter-hate. By counter-hate we mean activists, educators, or anyone that’s involved in trying to build a more inclusive province,” he explained.
Currently, there are five episodes of the podcast available for download or streaming.
Episode one discusses the context of hate in Alberta and follows up with the Indigenous perspective on hate in episode two. The following episodes go on to talk about the topic of “Immigration and the Fear of the Other,” which introduces us to the Yellow Vest movement.
Much of the podcast covers the actions of the Yellow Vest Movement, a group echoing the anti-immigration sentiments mentioned earlier in the article.
“They’re saying they aren’t racist but when you take a look at their online activity, it’s the total opposite of what they’re claiming,” said Chaudhry.
When asked what his plan for future episodes will be, Chaudhry mentioned that the podcast is meant to be a five episode limited series, but that he is interested in doing something similar in the future to really get at the other side of the political spectrum.
“We wanted to say ‘here’s a space to have these polarizing conversations.’ If it’s you and I, on opposite sides of the spectrum, trying to talk about our opinions in person, it’s likely that things will get heated. But if it’s a moderated discussion through audio, then we’re having that space for dialogue,” said Chaudhry.
He tried to bring one of the main organizers of the Yellow Vest Movement onto the podcast, but they unfortunately backed out at the last second.
So far a few notable guests have included SAMU president Riley Osadchuck, Metro Star reporter Omar Mosleh who has covered every Yellow Vest protest in Edmonton, as well as Keestin O’Dell of kihêw waciston, the Indigenous Centre at MacEwan.
With the podcast, Chaudhry wants to create a space where these complex topics, which are typically reserved for academic articles, are able to reach and engage the public in an accessible way.
He’s hoping that the information being shared over a podcast can bridge the gap between academic access and the access the general public has to these topics.
“Common Ground” is streaming now on Spotify.