Irfan Chaudhry

Instructor at MacEwan University, Provisional PhD Candidate at University of Alberta

Photography by Curtis Trent

WHY HE'S TOP 40: He’s working towards eliminating racism and building an understanding of why crime happens in our city.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT EDMONTON?: “The potential that we’re being promised with, all these different developments, all of these unique ideas that we’re seeing come up at City Council — a beach on the river, gondolas going across the river, the arena — even just the growth of people coming back downtown."

When Irfan Chaudhry was 18 years old, his teenage friend was murdered. “This was the first time I had experienced a loss of a friend. I did not believe it at first. When it finally sank in, I just did not understand it,” Chaudhry says. The event left him confused, so he tried to make sense of it “through examining and analyzing the issue.” A few months after the murder, he enrolled in his first criminology class for the sole purpose of trying to understand what had happened. 

This led Chaudhry to a career in analyzing crime, and one of the driving forces behind criminal activity in our city — racism. 

“It’s really easy now, because we live in such a multicultural environment, to feel that problems of race and racism aren’t as big of a deal as they once were. And I think, to some extent, that is true, but there are also other layers where race and racism are being showcased in a different avenue,” says Chaudhry, who worked as a crime analyst for the Edmonton Police Service for two years.

One of those avenues is social media.

Chaudhry, who is Muslim, noticed a number of people using racist language on Twitter, which is why his PhD project is focused on analyzing racist tweets from users in six large cities across Canada, including Edmonton. While it’s too early to know what patterns he’ll find in our city, he hopes to see if there is any correlation between a city having a high rate of race-based hate crime and the residents being more openly racist online. 

Chaudhry previous worked as a race-relations specialist for the Racism Free Edmonton project, an initiative focusing on combatting racism in the city by focusing on six areas in which to take action. The structure of the project includes a management committee with representation from 16 organizations. “When you have that many invested institutional leaders at the table addressing something like racism, it’s huge,” says Chaudhry.

Chaudhry also helps to curb racism by building an understanding of other religions and cultures. He was one of the original founders of The Mosquers, a video competition for local Muslim youths. Non-Muslims are invited to watch the films each year in order to build an understanding of what it is like to be Muslim. “Being able to not only instill creativity in youth but to also have a strong product sending a strong message about who Muslims are is huge,” says Chaudhry.  

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