Editors Salwa Iqbal Yasmeen Attasi Content Editor Sara Galal Art Director and Designer Tahreem Alvi Writers Oswa Shafei Enas Ali Raneem Alozzi Sara Galal Sanna Wani Andrew Mackin Disclaimer: The ideas and opinions expressed in this issue do not necessarily reflect those of the IITC staff, or those of the Institute of Islamic studies. Islam in the City is published by the Institute of Islamic Studies at the University of Toronto. Institute of Islamic Studies The Institute of Islamic Studies (IIS) at the University of Toronto offers a unique, multi-perspective view of Canadian society through the advanced study of Islam and Muslims. The IIS brings together academics from across disciplines to collaborate on research projects that fill critical gaps in our understanding of Islam and Muslims in Canada and beyond. The projects study and respond to issues across social, political, academic, and cultural sectors.
Twitter: @IISUofT Website: iis.utoronto.ca Issuu: iis-uoft Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
My Eid ft. Vampire Weekend
400 Years of Isolation: How Harem Stereotypes Translate to Modern Islamophobia
Love in the City
23 Children cackle like a band of hyenas 24 Interview with Sanna Wani 26 The Myth of Modesty 32 The Canadian Perspective 34 Navigating the World of Medicine, Ethics, and Discrimination 38 Toronto and the Rise of the Eco-Mosque
crossroads /ˈkrôsˌrōdz/ noun noun: crossroads; plural noun: crossroads a point at which a crucial decision must be made which will have far-reaching consequences.
“ We often meet our destiny on the road we take to avoid it” – Jean de la Fontaine
Editors Address Dear Islam in the City readers, Any seismologist will tell you that Toronto is not built on a seismic zone, but physical earthquakes are not the only things that can shake up a city and its inhabitants. The past year, or however long it’s been since COVID-19 started impacting our lives, revealed to us the cracks within our society. With nothing else to do we sat back and watched as our lives became imperiled by police brutality, Islamophobia, climate change and much more. It seemed like the worse COVID-19 got, the worse things around us got too. Soon enough it felt like our entire community, society, and civilization was built on one giant fault line. The 24/7 sensationalized news coverage, the uncontrollable doom scrolling, and what seems like an endless winter, was enough to keep us constantly on edge. We began planning for this edition of IITC in February, in the depths of winter, as we desperately staved off the “nothing is ever going to be okay again” feeling we all shared. Desperate times called for desperate measures, and we did something that was radical and unheard of for a bunch of millennials ––have hope. The possibility that things could get worse was equal to the possibility that things could also get better. So, we found ourselves at a crossroads (theme alert) and decided to tell our stories from there. The combination of articles in this issue of Islam in the City tell different stories, some our own and some borrowed. Stories like how Vampire Weekend infiltrated our Eid, how Mosques in Toronto are going green, or the medical racism that many doctors face within Canada, and many more. The stories that you are presented with in this issue will leave you at a crossroads with the lingering question “Where do we go from here?” Unfortunately, we do not have the answer for you. All we can say is that community organizing, standing up for the marginalized, and using your voice when it matters most, is the only way we can think of to emerge from this pandemic to create a society that is deserving for all its members to live in. In fairness and equity. & so, we leave you with the immortal words of Vincent Van Gogh, who it seems, aside from being a talented artist, was also a time traveller seeing as he wrote to us about our current predicament, 107 years ago. “Many people seem to think it foolish, even superstitious, to believe that the world could still change for the better. And it is true that in winter it is sometimes so bitingly cold that one is tempted to say, ‘What do I care if there is a summer; its warmth is no help to me now.’ Yes, evil often seems to surpass good. But then, in spite of us, and without our permission, there comes at last an end to the bitter frosts. One morning the wind turns, and there is a thaw. And so, I must still have hope.” Vincent van Gogh, The Letters of Vincent van Gogh, 1914 Sincerely,
My Eid ft. 9 VAMPIRE WEEKEND By Andrew Mackin
Everything is in flux. I guess that’s actually a constant, at least on a global scale. But even on an internal register, everything seems to be undergoing changes right now. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, either. But one of area of changethat I am perpetually coming up against is my faith. My status as a Muslim, my place in a community – or communities -, and what will happen to my faith as so much around me changes. Coming to the city, specifically to the University of Toronto, was crucial in my conversion story. Much of my identity as a Muslim is inexorably tied up with my identity as a student. Coming to the country’s biggest university, studying religion and specifically Islamic Studies, working and researching in this academic field – personally, academically, and professionally, the university was the scaffolding around which my Islam took shape. Now, in the early summer of 2021, I am writing my M.A. thesis. After that, I’m gone. This is an inflection point, not only for my professional development and career, but also as a Muslim. Most of the time, I’m not really sure of what to do next: what communities do I try to get involved with? To what extent? How do I find and define space for myself as a Muslim? When I ask these questions (almost constantly), no clear answers are ever revealed. But when I consider these questions, I am often reminded of a day. Specifically, Eid al-Fitr of 2019. It was a day that in some way helped define not necessarily what Islam was or is, but what it could be, and how I could fit into it. As a convert, that’s something I’ve always struggled with. While that day might not have all the answers to my questions, it offers something of a blueprint to me. A blueprint of what Islam in the city can look like, and all that Islam itself can be. It’s something that I hope I can follow and emulate in my attempts to (re)construct my Islam, again and again. Insha’Allah. My second Ramadan had come to an end. I awoke to a slightly foggy morning, but the sun still managed to break through the haze, speckling the ground with radiant streaks. One of my childhood friends picked me up early, around 7am. We drove to his family’s house; the house where I had always been welcomed with warmth and kindness since I was twelve. His family had been thrilled
when I converted – shocked, as most were, but unflinchingly supportive and welcoming. They had invited me to attend Eid salah and the ensuing celebrations with them. My friend and I arrived at the house and I was instantly greeted with breakfast pastries, tea, and hugs from all the many members of the extended family. I was elated in a way that I had never experienced before; all my awkwardness and shyness melted away as I felt welcomed in a Muslim space, as a Muslim, for the first time. In a small caravan of cars, we all drove to the local masjid – a large barn that could fit thousands of people – for Eid salah. I had never attended Eid prayers before; I had never even been in a mosque with nearly this many people before. I was intimidated but bolstered by my friend and his family. The prayer was lovely, with thousands of people around me, synchronized in our movements. When the prayer was over, strangers turned to me and hugged me without hesitation, offering me salaam’s and wishing me a happy Eid. It was bizarre and beautiful. But what struck me the most was the two old men praying and reciting into the microphone’s, welcoming everyone in before the prayer in a comically competitive way: their voices trying to outdo each other, then small clearings of the throat and coughs broadcast loudly throughout the building, and back to out-praying each other. My friend and I were trying to be serious, but a few people nearby were also clearly trying not to laugh, which made it that much harder. When we were leaving the mosque, I briefly lost my shoes amidst the mountain of footwear outside the hall. Instead of being worried or stressed, I couldn’t stop smiling. This was the type of thing my Muslim friends had always joked about growing up. When we finally got out and back to the car, my friends parents hugged me and said, “Welcome to Islam.” From the masjid, we drove to a restaurant, where our group took up nearly the entire dining room. My friends’ entire family was there, and we were joined by a number of family friends. Also in attendance was a visiting imam from Algeria who helped lead the prayer that morning. He spoke little-to-no English, and no one else at the lunch spoke any Arabic. Except me… Shwaya (a little). I was promptly sat next to this kindly old Algerian man, and we had a lovely, if a little stilted, conversation about Canadian weather, about Algerian weather, how the climates of the
countries differ, and a whole range of other weather-related topics. My education was proving helpful! It had been a very ‘traditional’ Eid thus far – I went to prayer and had a celebratory lunch with my friend and his family. If the day had ended there, I would’ve been delighted and contented at a day filled with a sense of community – the first time I’ve ever felt that as a Muslim. But the day did not end there. It carried on in a way that filled me with excitement at the possibilities of what my future as a Muslim could look like. I left early from the restaurant, bidding my new Algerian friend farewell, and rushed home to change into less formal clothes. By now, the sky had turned, and rain was coming down – what would the imam make of this development!? I put on a hoodie and a rain jacket and rushed out yet again, racing to catch my bus down to the city (all of this had been just north of Toronto). Arriving at Finch station, I ran enthusiastically down into the subway and headed south to Union. There, I met up with another lifelong friend of mine who had also just come from an Eid party with his family. We walked over to his nearby apartment and hung out for half an hour or so before heading over to Echo Beach– one of my favorite concert venues – to see one of our favorite bands, Vampire Weekend. At the concert, we got a drink and walked around a bit before the show started. We ran into another friend of mine, a muhajjaba I had met years prior when she had helped start a student-led Muslim social justice organization. Turns out we also shared a love for indie music. The concert was amazing – the band was everything I had hoped for and more. The lead singer understood that it was also the NBA finals and enthusiastically showed support for the Raptors; the crowd erupted. My friend and I took videos of us singing along in the rain. During the encore, the band played one of my favorite songs, ‘Ya Hey.’ This song – and the album it comes from, ‘Modern Vampires of the City,’ – deals with many religious themes, motifs, and imagery. Most poignantly, the song addresses Moses meeting God in the ‘burning bush’ incident. God’s refusal to give their name, instead stating ‘I am that I am,’ is repeated through the songs’ chorus – ‘Ya Hey’ sung to resemble ‘Yahweh.’ Standing amidst a crowd of thousands of people, with my best friend beside me, it struck me that this preppy indie band had this whole crowd singing out God’s ‘name.’ At that moment, any lingering remnant of the compartmentalization of faith and its’ supposed removal from the public sphere finally dissipated. I felt like disparate parts of me finally came together. After the show, we went to a nice bar and watched the remainder of the Raptors game. I had no interest in the actual game – forgive me, Toronto – but the energy at the bar was just as electric as it was at the concert. To my surprise, there was a strong undercurrent of community among everyone there, all collectively cheering on the home team. I can’t quite articulate all that I felt that evening, but as my second Eid al-Fitr came to an end, I felt like I belonged for the first time as a Muslim. More importantly, that belonging didn’t clash with anything. My identity as a Muslim was not at odds with or compartmentalized apart from any other aspect of my self. I was equally Muslim and myself at the masjid as I was at the concert and at the bar, and I saw that others were too. The city is something of a nexus, bringing so many people and their multitudes together in a way that
they can all function as one. The Vampire Weekend concert was not an explicitly Muslim space, but it wasn’t a non-Muslim one either. I don’t know what this means for me moving forward, but it admittedly gives me hope at our collective ability to exist in ways that at first glance might seem contradictory, but that in reality are anything but. As I leave behind the structure and scaffolding that the university provided me – and for which I am endlessly thankful -, I hope to keep that day in mind and use it as a north-star, letting it guide me and remind me of all the ways I can be Muslim, and all that Islam can be.
400 Years of Isolation: How Harem Stereotypes Translate to Modern ISLAMOPHOBIA By Enas Ali
Ever since the 9/11 attacks, there has been a spotlight on Islam and Muslims, and it has not been a positive one. These attacks very quickly became associated with Islam and were a burden borne by Muslims all over the United States and the Western world, which included a sharp rise in hate crimes committed against Muslims. As visible Muslims, hijab-clad women became easy targets for Islamophobic attacks. This type of gendered Islamophobia is not a new or recent occurrence, it has its roots in early modern depictions of the Islamic world. Many Islamophobic tropes, specifically about women, can be traced back to the orientalist European depictions of the harem and harem women. The harem (as it was depicted as a central cultural element by Europeans) of the Islamic world is often believed to be a secluded area of the house where the women — often believed to be concubines — were situated, completely isolated from the outside world. It was thought to be a place of sex and sensuality, where time stood still, and men were free to laze about, surrounded by beautiful women. Though it is true that the women’s quarters (which, for the average household, only consisted of the female members of a family) were closed off to men outside the household, this particular image of the harem is largely untrue, rather they were brought about by European men fantasizing about the harem. Since the 17th century, they built fantasies about what happens in the women’s quarters — fantasies which soon turned into stories about Muslim women who were oppressed and trapped within the walls of the infamous harem. Artistic works seeking to depict the harem, such as Giacomo Mantegazza’s A Harem Scene and Jean-Léon Gérôme’s The Snake Charmer, circulated the Western world, adding a visual element to what once was just stories about the harem. These over-sexualised images of Middle Eastern women continue to be used in modern media through films such as The Mummy and Disney’s Aladdin. Muslim women have long existed in this paradox of being oversexualized on one hand and being completely de-sexualized on the other. Parallels exist between the ways in which harem women and modern Muslim women are portrayed in the West. Both harem women and modern Muslim women are imagined to be isolated from the outside world, only accessible to the [strict and oppressive] men of the household. Both groups of women are stripped of any sexual and individual autonomy by Western ideas of Islam. And both narratives were largely untrue, serving to promote colonial interests in the Middle East. European colonizers were able to push this idea of the oppressed Muslim woman and then use it as justification for 19th century colonization of the Middle East. It gave colonization an added element of nobility as it became about freeing Muslim women rather than being only a “grab for power and resources”. This idea draws heavily on Edward Said’s Orientalism, where he details how the West has purposely created a “barbaric” and weak perception of the East in a way that opposed European “civility.” Said uses John Westlake’s idea that “regions of the earth designated as ‘uncivilized’…ought to be annexed or occupied by advanced powers,” in demonstrating how these depictions benefitted imperial interests. In order to legitimize and maintain support for colonialism, it was necessary to depict the East as naturally weaker and in need of Western intervention. For the colonizers,
13 the Middle East became another civilizing mission, another White Man’s burden. Over a century later, the same narrative was again used in justifying the American invasion and ongoing occupation of Afghanistan. In 2001, shortly after former U.S. president George Bush declared the “War on Terror,” former First Lady Laura Bush, declared that “the fight against terrorism is also the fight for the rights and dignity of women,” and condemned the “severe repression against womenin Afghanistan”. In other words, Afghan women are an oppressed group who needed saving from their oppressive culture and religion. Muslim women became the scapegoat used by the United States government and in highlighting the poor state of women’s rights in Afghanistan, Bush pushes the idea that the American mission in Afghanistan is an honourable one, meant to benefit the women. Currently, in 2021, these harmful depictions of the oppressed Muslim woman remain. Islam is still treated as a “uniquely sexist religion”, with the hijab representing a tool to oppress its women. These stories and stereotypes, though fabricated, had real and long-lasting consequences which Muslim women still struggle against in the 21st century. We can see these effects internationally, from France’s proposed hijab ban to Belgium banning the hijab in universities, to the many individual attacks against women who choose to exist as visible Muslims. After 400 years, gendered Islamophobia continues to violate women’s rights to live freely in many parts of the West. In pushing the false narrative that Muslim women were oppressed and isolated, Muslim women eventually did become truly isolated, only it was not by their own men, but by the same societies that claimed to be freeing them.
“Parallels exist between the ways in which harem women and modern Muslim women are portrayed in the West. Both harem women and modern Muslim women are imagined to be isolated from the outside world, only accessible to the [strict and oppressive] men of the household. Both groups of women are stripped of any sexual and individual autonomy by Western ideas of Islam. And both narratives were largely untrue, serving to promote colonial interests in the Middle East.”
Children cackle like a BAND OF hyenas
By Sanna Wani
23 and I see an icicle shaped like a saber tooth. I remember the sabertooth tiger is dead but could eat elephants and rhinos and bears. I remember a cat is not a cat but a lineage. Humans are like that, have lineage. Ancestors. Shrouds we might return to and respect, if we wanted to, if we remembered. But those shrouds are like this icicle and the children laughing behind it. Tucked in underneath gravel, held together by cold air. I am underneath the train pulling into the station. There is a loose muscle in my mouth I worry I might swallow. I am perpetually straining my jaw, carefully holding my teeth apart. I wonder if I could grow a pair of canines like the saber tooth, if I could ask that of my mouth. My mouth has asked so many things of me. A news caster moves his mouth in the shape of WE ARE ALL DYING but the subtitles read BACK AT 6. I am reminded that mouth is just one way to wear a body, an empire, a vessel that won’t fit. Teeth are just one way to wear bone. There is always a new name for reckoning but reckoning never changes. A tiger is a tiger, whether the shapes of its face or size of its enemies have changed. An empire is always just an empire whether it holds your face to the ground or lifts you up to touch the sky. I learned about the sabertooth tiger without an age but as a child, when I pulled back my lips and pressed my thumbs into my canines until I bled. My niece and nephew ask me, Is this fun? like Are you listening? I am grateful for small cacophonies. For the chance of renewal. For new centuries to pass down in blood. To hope they might choose better names for empires.
The Interview By Salwa Iqbal
“Sanna Wani lives between Mississauga and Srinagar. Her poetry and essays have been published in POETS.org, Best Canadian Poetry 2020 and Brick. Her debut collection will be out with House of Anansi Press in spring 2022. She loves daisies.”
What made you want to pursue poetry? Was there a specific instance where you read something, or was it just some sort of innate feeling pulling you towards writing? I’ve always liked stories and was the type of kid who spaced out a lot. I loved reading and one day my mom asked me why I didn’t write my own stories and it hadn’t even occurred to me. Poetry came into my life shortly after that. But it was really the encouragement of a few particular people that kept me pulling myself towards writing. My Nana, two English teachers. It still is so much the case still for me, that writing is more about the community around a poem than the poem itself. They’re coconstitutive. It really crystallized in high school. Poems were a way I could pour out emotion from inside me when it got too much, in good ways and in bad ways. But thinking seriously about craft feels more recent. A few influential books for me were Seam by Tarfia Faizullah, Citizen by Claudia Rankine and The Trees The Trees by Heather Christle. Can you tell me a bit more about the poem? It draws a lot of imagery of what feels like city vs wilderness, or civilization was nature, was this intentional? I wrote this on the GO train in…2018, I think? It was winter and there was a giant icicle clinging to the bottom of train as it pulled into the station and there was a group of kids on a field trip waiting for the same train as me, just laughing and making a ruckus. I was responding to the wild city in front of me in that moment. Also, being on the edge of the city, on transit, going towards the suburbs. If you’ve been on Lakeshore West before, there is a lot of nature you have to pass through before getting anywhere. I was thinking about teeth and evolution. I missed my niece and nephew. I know you are also an anthropology student; how does anthropology affect the way you approach writing poems? Lately I’ve been feeling like the anthropological gaze is almost antithetical to poetry. I say almost because there are moments where the two slide really close together, an attention to detail and the ongoingness of all our interactions. They both feel inverse to specificity and abstraction equally. I chose anthropology for how it fit to poetry but if I think now about how anthropology affected my poetry, it would probably be amplifying the construction and translation. The skeleton and its journey, whether it’s another poem or a herd of goats or my family. Also construction as the histories that condense around anything, right, and translation as the process through which those histories approach us or us them. Grad school has also, like, needlessly intellectualized me. Sometimes I end up thinking circles around a poem instead of just writing it. But it also made me more attentive in a sharp way, in a cataloguing, categorical way. That gaze is a mixed bag. Sometimes it feels incisive, sometimes it feels alienating. The past year has affected us and our creativity in different ways. How has it impacted the way you write? Did you completely stop writing, or did it make you write even more? I also know you spent some time recently in Kashmir,
did your experiences there make their way into any of your upcoming poems? Oh my god, it totally stopped me in my tracks. It made me realize you can’t write without living and you can’t live without community. I had an almost four month adjustment period where I wrote nothing and I specifically had a writing project to do. Everyone was telling me, “This situation must be perfect for you!” Nothing could be further from the truth. Once I was home in Kashmir and living with family again, the writing slowly came back. And yes, those poems and the experience of being back home for such a long time definitely got in there. A lot of mountains and quiet winter. We all have that one poem we always go back to, poems that we have memorized and burned into our memory. Poems that inspire us and are special to us. For me it’s a poem called On This the 100th Anniversary of the Sinking of the Titanic, We Reconsider the Buoyancy of the Human Heart by Laura Lamb Brown-Lavoie. I’m curious is there any poem like this for you? So many. Also that poem is just beautiful! “And you sailed right into it? / It was love, Titanic said.” A really special poem to me “And Yet I’m Not A Tree” by Heather Christle. I think I’ve read that poem a thousand times and it still gets me. Another one is “Unit of Measure” by Sandra Beasley. Capybaras are my favourite animal! “Small Kindnesses” by Danusha Laméris. I like hats. I also wanted to congratulate you on the very exciting news of your upcoming debut poetry book, which will be published in spring of 2022! Is there anything you can tell us about it? Are there any specific themes you explore? Thank you so much! It’s still a work in progress now. There are four sections! There’s one section that is a long erasure poem about Allah and embodiment and one section which is a long prose poem about friendship and family. The title used to be Horizons Behind the Sun. Now it’s Singing. It might still change. It’s been hard to talk ‘about’ the book to be honest because, as someone wonderfully quoted at me the other day, poetry is about something the way a cat is about a house. But I explore questions and feelings around Kashmir, Islam, friendship, diaspora and grief. So much about grief—and love. Do you have any advice for undergraduate students who also want to pursue/write poetry? Read as much as you write! Don’t let anyone tell you right from wrong. There’s no such thing in poetry. Trust your gut, follow your desires and have fun. Play. And actually read at least two issues of a journal you want to submit to. Try to be mindful about who you send your work to. Attend lots of literary events: you can find them through local libraries, bookstores, open mics. Find people you trust. Cherish their work with as much as your own. Write for each other.
The MYTH of Modesty By Sara Galal
Content Warning: The following text features discussions of sexual assault and related themes.
28 When I was 14, I was sexually assaulted by a relative. I did not comprehend at the time what was happening, but I knew something was not right. I felt trapped and violated. When I screamed, he let me go. I didn’t tell anyone. I recalled doing umrah when I was 11 years old and being lightly hit by a member of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, famously known as the Saudi religious police. The man was carrying a stick and hit me with it on my arm as I was doing tawaf, sternly saying, “Your zeenah [adornment] sister.” I had been wearing an almost entirely black abaya, save for two white stripes running down each side. I felt deeply humiliated, and it was all I could think about while going through the motions of completing my umrah rituals. Girls and women of any age could not in any way, directly or indirectly, dress or behave in a manner that might entice men, or else they’re to blame. That was the message 11-year-old me received. It is no surprise then, that fear of getting blamed rendered me silent at 14. I wish I could say it was a one-time incident, but it turned into months of sexual harassment. The harassment stopped just as it started, suddenly and without any warning. For years, I stayed silent. As I got older, I was able to resist any family gatherings that involved him. My parents had been growing more and more irritated with my refusal to visit their family or leave my room when their family came to our house. As the years passed by, I desperately wanted to confide in my parents. Realistically, I did not think my parents would react with hostility; however, the fear of any comment or question, intentional or not, that would make me shoulder any responsibility for my assault was enough to keep me silent. It wasn’t until I graduated from high school, preparing to go off to university, that I finally told my mother what had happened. I had to unburden myself before starting a new chapter of my life abroad. When I travelled to study in Toronto, I had perceived gender equality in North America the way it was sold to people in the Middle East and North Africa. I was not naïve enough to think that gender-based violence does not occur in the West; but I was ignorant enough to hope that Muslim women, especially immigrant Muslim women, are not held by the aspects of their culture that encourage them to be silent about their assault. I had also hoped that the general Canadian culture would discourage men from violating women. I was wrong. I was sexually harassed twice in Toronto, both times by older Muslim men. I began to see that the same culture of silence and victim-blaming that existed in the Middle East also surrounded Muslim, and non-Muslim, women in Toronto. In fact, in Toronto, there was the added factor of denial of Muslim women’s experiences. To be specific, it is not that Muslim men deny that sexual harassment is an issue in Western countries, rather they think it’s an issue that does not impact modest, hijab-observing women. Despite the flawed and unfounded claim that the hijab protects Muslim women against sexual harassment, it is still
a strong belief in Muslim communities. The idea that Muslim women are less likely to be victimized based on their modest dressing is as ridiculous as it sounds. The thought that visible Muslim women in Canada are somehow protected against victimization is inconceivable when considering that sexual harassment is epidemic in several Muslim-majority countries such as Egypt,1 where the sexual harassment rate is 99%. Not to mention, it is our visibility that also makes us targets of Islamophobic attacks. 2 The problem with the belief that the hijab protects us is that it is superstitious at best and pseudoscience at worst, with women suffering the effects either way. The rationale behind the myth that the hijab protects us lies in the belief that it sends a message to men that these women are forbidden. There are several obvious problems with this notion. For starters, it is entirely based on telling predatory men that while hijab wearing Muslim women are off-limits, violating non-hijabis and non-Muslim women is permissible. After all, it is their lack of modesty that authorizes their violation. Assuming this thought process is rational––which, it is not–– what, then, does this make of hijab-wearing Muslim women who still get harassed? The reaction has typically been one of two: accusing victims of being opportunist fabulists or accusing them of doing something that solicits their own attack. When the hijab is made out to be a symbol of chastity and modesty rather than a practice that Muslim women engage in out of piety and a desire to explore their relationship with God, it is only natural that its failure to protect us is met with skepticism and disbelief. The truth is, if covering up was the solution to sexual harassment, this vile crime would be nonexistent in Muslim-majority countries. Simply put, the belief that the hijab protects women from sex-based crimes is false. It’s important to note that the misconception regarding the magical protective powers of the hijab is not the only factor silencing Muslim women. After all, we cannot have this conversation without addressing the elephant in the room: Islamophobia. It is not at all uncommon to hear Muslim women discuss their reluctance to voice their struggles lest their suffering be exploited for anti-Muslim agenda. Discussions regarding the experiences of Muslim women are often hijacked by Islamophobes who combine their anti-Islam views and racism with their white savior complex to create a scenario that is entirely distorted and self-serving. It’s quite easy to see why Muslim women feel silenced regarding their assault when 56% of Canadians believe that Islam is suppressing women, along with the the racist and Islamophobic stereotype of Muslim men as inherently more violent, hypersexual, and patriarchal, and the overall rise in Islamophobia3 Although Muslim women worry that speaking out will contribute to the increase in Islamophobic rhetoric against Muslim men, we must remember that gendered Islamophobia is a concern for us as well. When almost half of the victims of Islamophobic attacks are women, along with the appearance of feminist-dressed
29 “When Muslim women don’t feel safe confiding in their family or community, and they don’t feel safe seeking the criminal justice system, some might suggest they turn to community leaders—sheikhs and imams; however, what do you do when your assaulter is your local imam?”
31 Islamophobic laws targeting Muslim women, we must take into account that it is not just Muslim men who suffer the consequences of Islamophobia.3 The result of our protectiveness of the image of Muslims as well as our concern for our safety is that there is never a right time for Muslim women to speak up about their own abuse. However, Muslim women’s silence has never prevented Islamophobia before, and it will not do it now; the existence of Islamophobia at its roots was never in response to the rise of our voices. While speaking out to family comes with its obvious risks, especially if the perpetrator is a family member, reporting to the police is not any easier for women. The Canadian Department of Justice estimates that only 5% of sexual assaults are reported to the police.4 This 5% is represented by about 30,000 cases. We can discuss all the various reasons, such as the re-traumatization that occurs while going through the legal process, but the outcomes of the system are the best explanation. Of all sexual assaults reported to the police in Canada, only 12% lead to conviction and 7% lead to a custody sentence.5 When Muslim women don’t feel safe confiding in their family or community, and they don’t feel safe seeking the criminal justice system, some might suggest they turn to community leaders––sheikhs and imams; however, what do you do when your assaulter is your local imam? Facing Abuse in Community Environments (FACE) is an organization that has been documenting some of the abuse committed by Muslim community leaders across North America, and their database speaks for itself6 What, then, is left for Muslim women to do but confide in one another, which unfortunately means that abusers get to carry on committing their transgressions. The reality is that ending, or even reducing, sexual assault was never tied to what women do or do not do. The solution lies in both creating societies where women are not silenced and assaulters are held accountable, and these cannot occur without one another. We must create a society where abusers and rapists know that there is no place for them in society, that their crimes will not be brushed under the rug while women are forced to carry the burden of their silence. When Muslim circles begin to believe Muslim women and hold their abusers accountable, only then will we see a society where they are not silenced. With gender-based crimes, we must remember that this is all a result of socialization, and nothing is set in stone. Change is always possible, and as a community, we should always aim to change for the better. We all are responsible for ensuring that Muslim women live in the safe world that they deserve.
The Canadian Perspective
SA = Sexual Assault
33 Resources if you or a loved one need help or support: ONTARIO
Assaulted Women’s Helpline awhl.org, 1-866-863-0511
Women’s Shelters Canada sheltersafe.ca/
+ 24/7 + Crisis counselling, safety planning, and support + Deaf, blind, and hard of hearing services available.
+ Canada nation-wide + Online resource for women to find the nearest shelter and safety planning support
TTY for deaf and heard of hearing: 1-866-863-7868 Online chat: awhl.org/online-chat
Nisa Homes nisahomes.com/
Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic schliferclinic.com, 416-323-9149
Transitional homes providing shelter and support for Muslim women and children
+ Toronto + Free legal and counselling services to marginalized and racialized women survivors of violence. + Interpretation services available
LOCATIONS Alberta Calgary: 1-888-456-8043 EXT. 404 CALGARY@NISAHOMES.COM
Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres sexualassaultsupport.ca/support/
Edmonton: 1-888-456-8043 EXT. 405 EDMONTON@NISAHOMES.COM
+Connects you with the nearest sexual assault centre to receive free counselling, support and information + Locations available Ontario-wide
FOR INDIGENOUS WOMEN Talk4Healing talk4healing.com, 1-855-554-4325 + Helpline for Indigenous women across Ontario + 24/7, 14 languages available Live chat: talk4healing.com/live-chat/ FOR MEN Support Services for Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse 24/7 helpline: 1-866-887-0015 + individual and group counselling, telephone and online counselling, information and referrals for support and other services
Vancouver: 1-888-456-8043 EXT. 402 VANCOUVER@NISAHOMES.COM Ontario Mississauga: 1-888-456-8043 EXT. 401 MISSISSAUGA@NISAHOMES.COM Scarborough: 1-888-456-8043 EXT. 406 SCARBOROUGH@NISAHOMES.COM Windsor: 1-888-456-8043 EXT. 403 WINDSOR@NISAHOMES.COM Ottawa: 1-888-456-8043 EXT. 407 OTTAWA@NISAHOMES.COM For resources including assault centres, helplines, and support across all other provinces and territories: endingviolencecanada.org/sexual-assaultcentres-crisis-lines-and-support-services/
It's never your fault. We believe you.
Navigating the World of Medicine, ETHICS, and Discrimination By Oswa Shafei
It’s no secret that doctors are held in high regard in our society. From being the first choice in the dating market to receiving unquestioned line of credit approvals at the bank; the social rewards that doctors may reap are numerous. However, though doctors may receive praise and respect in most circles, they are not universally beloved. Sometimes, their own patients are prejudiced against them. It’s a moral dilemma that’s been discussed in the literature and even a few Grey’s Anatomy episodes. Sometimes no matter how qualified a physician may be, how advanced they are in their career, or skilled they are at the task at hand, patients will still see a black face, hijab, or brown hands, and ask for a white doctor. And it happens in Toronto, often dubbed ‘the most multicultural city in the world,’ more than we’d like to admit.¹ Personal stories, Twitter threads, and op-eds pervade the internet revealing physicians’ experiences with racism, discrimination, and bigotry. Doctors, nurses, and personal support workers recount time and time again the indignation of being presented with such requests on the job. Surveys collected by groups such as the Black Physicians’ Association of Ontario and the American Journal of Bioethics have unveiled inordinately large revelations of workplace discrimination by patients, including requests for “a lighter doctor,” “a Canadian doctor,” and outright use of slurs against treating healthcare professionals.² However, despite the frequency of these events, you’d be hard-pressed to find a hospital in Toronto with an institutional policy on how to respond to racist, Islamophobic, or otherwise bigoted patient reassignment requests. Unlike other workplaces, the context of the clinical environment is unique: in the eyes of society, doctors and staff are expected to prioritize patients’ care above all else.
This can result in pressure to capitulate to patients’ discriminatory demands for reassignment. Issues such as racism may be seen as the purview of institutions and organizations outside of the building doors; in the hospital, it may be believed, staff should treat patients to the best of their ability, no matter the personal cost. However, just as healthcare institutions have a responsibility to ensure the wellbeing of patients, they, too, have a responsibility to care for the health and wellbeing of staff. Giving bigoted patients what they want can leave racialized physicians feeling abandoned by their leadership, and fly directly in the face of many institutions’ “zero tolerance,” racism policies.³ What are the alternatives? Short of the ridiculous, tying the patient down and forcing them to receive treatment from their original doctor (a move that would be considered battery under Canada’s Health Care Consent Act), some physicians may feel no choice but to give in to such requests.⁴ In an effort to maintain access to care while simultaneously putting antiracism into action, some activists have advocated presenting such patients with a choice: to accept the doctor that one was assigned or go elsewhere. Where patients do not require critical, life-saving treatment, it may be seen as a form of righteous retribution; to cause racists the inconvenience of shuffling over to another hospital or clinic indicates that their hatred is unwelcome at the facility, and reaffirms the team’s willingness to defend their racialized colleague’s capability. However, this solution may be fraught with concerns, the chief of which may be that should a patient accept the ultimatum, the racialized doctor now must treat a patient who knowingly despises them. They may feel uncomfortable or intimidated administering care to someone who has little confidence in their abilities––someone who
may be just short of frothing at the mouth throughout the entire encounter. Doctors may also be vulnerable to an increased sense of liability; negative healthcare outcomes may be doubly interpreted as willful malpractice, or a form of physician’s ‘revenge’ in court, regardless of the baselessness of such claims.⁵ Patients, too, may be less compliant in such cases, further heightening this risk. The maintenance of access to care in such cases may also be dubious; presenting such an ultimatum may serve as an insurmountable barrier to treatment for some patients. They may be unable to seek care at another hospital due to finances, transportation or other limitations, leaving them with no real choice and effectively amounting to a violation of informed consent and the patient’s autonomy.⁶ Of course, many may rightly point out that it is not racist patients that we should be concerned with–– it is racialized patients, in particular Black and Indigenous patients, who experience the greatest discrimination and threat to health within the walls of Ontario hospitals. Lack of access to care has been largely normalized for these populations, with insufficient inroads made in recent decades to achieve equity in healthcare. Furthermore, not all requests for physician reassignment based on protected characteristics are wrong. Muslim women frequently request female physicians due to religious beliefs. Black patients, particularly Black women, may also request Black doctors due to fears of discrimination in their care–– a fear that is backed by numerous statistics revealing the pervasiveness of misogynoir in medicine.⁶ Institutions, however, may be limited in granting such requests if wholesale policies are implemented on the clinical floor, without consideration for special circumstances. As it stands, fears of unfair application and increased liability may prevent the introduction of institutional or provincial policy on handling discriminatory patient requests for physician reassignment. Unfortunately, this comes at the expense of racialized physicians, who are vulnerable to the vitriolic attacks of racist patients in the workplace. Nonetheless, it is apparent that decisive action must be taken in the workplace, including clinical environments, to protect the rights and health of not only patients, but staff as well.
Toronto and the RISE of the Eco-Mosque
By Raneem Alozzi
It was around Ramadan 2017 when Areej Riaz first came to Canada, and naturally, she spent a lot of time at mosques for iftar, meeting strangers, familiarizing herself with the Muslim community and basking in the spirit of the Holy month. Immediately, Riaz remembers being shocked at the amount of waste being produced in mosques and was especially astounded at the sheer volume of plastic water bottles passed around and thrown out during iftar. The bottles were particularly jarring as Riaz mentally compared the Canadian water testing system to that of Pakistan’s, where she had just arrived from. In Toronto, drinking water is tested every six hours, up to 6000 times a year, while treatment plants are tested over 20,000 times annually. In Ottawa, the city conducts over 125,000 water quality tests a year. Drinking water was not always safe nor immediate in Pakistan and could be toxic or brackish, said Riaz — it baffled her that people chose to drink bottled water in Canada, where tap water is tested and regulated municipally, provincially, and federally. “It just didn't make sense to me why people were using so many plastic water bottles, and I realized very quickly that it's because of this lack of information and leadership,” said Riaz. “It was very apparent that this was one of the main things that very obviously needed some kind of intervention and support.” A few weeks later, Riaz came across a Facebook group advertising EnviroMuslims, a Canada-based organization aiming to educate and empower the Muslim community to live sustainably and care for the environment. “I reached out and I was like ‘Oh enviro-Muslims, that's exactly what I want to do. I want to work on the environment with Muslims. What are you guys working on?’ That's how the conversations began and those conversations have never ended.”
GREEN SINCE DAY 1 An independent cross-provincial survey of 20 mosques and nearly 200 members of the Muslim community across Canada, conducted by the EnviroMuslims organization, found that 98 per cent of respondents from the Muslim community believe that mosques have a leadership role to play in environmental sustainability. One hundred percent of the respondents answered “yes” or “maybe” when asked if they wanted their mosque to take the initiative and become involved in sustainability programs. The results pointed to overwhelming support from the community for their mosques to get involved in this kind of work, said Riaz, now the Director of Climate Programs at EnviroMuslims. The results are also rooted in Islamic teachings. In an essay published by the International Journal of Business, Economics and Law, the authors highlight the importance of the environment within Islamic tradition throughout various Quranic verses. For example, natural resources have been created by Allah with the purpose of providing sustenance to man’s life on Earth, furthermore as a testing-ground for man’s morality in executing his trusteeship role (Quran, 38:27, 2:60). It is also abundantly clear that Allah reminds human beings not to do evil and make mischief on earth (Quran, 7:56) because the consequences will backfire on human beings themselves. Allah says to that effect, “mischief has appeared on land and sea because of what the hands of men have done, that Allah may give them a taste of some of their deeds, in order that they may turn back” (Al-Quran, 30:41). Hence, Muslims are religiously bound to manage the environment wisely manifesting their trusteeship to Allah (Sarkawi et al., 2016). In so doing, it charts an environmental ethic and morality in Islam that moulds human attitudes towards the environment (Sarkawi et al., 2016). Understanding the carrying capacity of the environment and acting upon it accordingly is very important because men are equipped
40 with the mental capabilities to do it compared to the other creations — this effort is regarded as an amanah (trust) to mankind (Sarkawi et al., 2016). Following their survey, Riaz along with partners of The Greening Canadian Mosques project, Faith and the Common Good, created a toolkit designed to integrate sustainable practices for mosques centred around environmental protection and encouraging their Muslim community to uphold their individual roles as Khalifas - stewards of the Earth. The toolkit, which was created with the help of sector experts, aims to provide Canadian Mosques with information and sustainable practices for waste management, water stewardship, energy conservation, sustainable transportation, community engagement, as well as special events and a section on the holy month of Ramadan. Each section details a plan, case studies, and resources to assist mosques in their next steps, starting with their first step — a pledge to sustainability. To sway Mosques to become involved with sustainability projects, the toolkit details the importance of the initiative from a religious point of view by utilizing data and providing resources and Islamic guidance. Additionally, the toolkit highlights the importance of community engagement and the “business case” which explains the impact of sustainability on the mosque’s reputation as well as the cost-savings of transitioning to environmental practices. The action plans recommended under each category are designed to cater to different institutions and mosques depending on their capacity to pledge. The plans are based on different cost ranges between cost-free, low-cost (below $500) and high-cost plans (above $500). To further bridge the divide with diverse Muslim communities, EnviroMuslims also created posters with multilingual translations including Arabic, Urdu, Somali, and Hindi among others. The posters are designed to be accessible in a number of sizes so they can be plastered anywhere — visual signages help send a message to people, especially those who aren’t really seeing the direct connection between religion and environmental stewardship, says Riaz. “Even at this point, the team kept it very broad, because we kept in mind that this is going to be from across the country. So while we have provided some resources and flagged some funding opportunities. We do take into account that you know this is very broad. And we might come back and make it more targeted to Provincial or Municipal mosques.”
LOOKING INWARDS In each category of the toolkit, the team ensured to highlight a case study of work that is already being done on the sustainability forefront in Muslim organizations. “Community leaders from across Canada have been doing something or the other, which is worth showcasing,” says Riaz. “And the case studies also feature learning from those community leaders, which the mosques can also use if they are trying to roll out a similar project.” Riaz says they also look to partner with other initiatives and projects such as Green Ummah, and Khaleafa, an organization that launched “The Green Khutbah” campaign, aiming to mobilize Muslims to become responsible stewards of the environment in the form of encouragement during the Friday sermon. The path forward, explains Riaz, is multifaceted, because people need to be educated in all the ways they interact with a mosque––whether through a poster, a sermon, a wedding, a graduation ceremony or any of the plethora of events hosted at mosques. “Mosques need to take these actions, practically, so the community can learn and take that back home with them.” The application of the campaign is the third crucial aspect of the project which the EnviroMuslims team will be focused on. A lot of the feedback the team received was to continue recommending sustainable activities which may not make direct religious sense like bike shares and carpools — interventions you wouldn’t expect from a mosque. But Riaz says that’s the gap that needs to be bridged; becoming a more community conducive space. In a conversation with a friend, Riaz was asked why Muslims aren’t environmentally sustainable The question frustrated her because she knew that while Muslims may not present as conventionally sustainable, sustainable practices have long been embedded within our [Muslim-dominant] cultures and heritage. These efforts often look different from how other communities define sustainability, but Riaz argues that we also need to take into account that much of the Muslim community are immigrants, newcomers or refugees, and are coming from places where conversations surrounding environmentalism didn’t always take place and often took a back seat to more pressing issues like poverty, education and day-to-day living. “We are most often the kind of community, who even without that education, would reuse our clothes and pass them around to our family and friends, we reuse containers and plastic bags, we always think about getting all the family together into one car and then going together,” says Riaz. “That kind of leeway also needs to be given to the newcomer Muslim community so they’re able to integrate into Canadian systems and become the stewards at their own time...We may not really be conscious of our sustainability potential, but we’re still that community who is very very conscious of the impact that we’re making.”
“Muslims are religiously bound to manage the environment wisely manifesting their trusteeship to Allah. In so doing, it charts an environmental ethic and morality in Islam that moulds human attitudes towards the environment.”
References and Sources 12 1 Ali, Isra. “The Harem Fantasy in Nineteenth-Century Orientalist Paintings.” Dialectical Anthropology 39, no. 1 (2015): 33–46. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10624-015-9372-7. 2 Alimahomed-Wilson, Sabrina. “Invisible Violence: Gender, Islamophobia, and the Hidden Assault on Muslim Women.” Women, Gender, and Families of Colour 5, no.1 (2017): 73–97. https://doi.org/10.5406/womgenfamcol.5.1.0073. 3 Berry, Kim. “The Symbolic Use of Afghan Women in the War on Terror.” Humboldt Journal of Social Relations 27, no. 2 (2013): 137-160. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23524156. 4 Kumar, Deepa. Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire. Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books, 2012. 5 Said, Edward W. Orientalism. 1st ed. New York: Pantheon Books, 1978.
26 1 UNFPA. (2021, February 9). Gender-based violence. UNFPA Egypt. https://egypt.unfpa.org/en/node/22540 2 Elmir, R. (2016, September 16). How Muslim women bear the brunt of Islamophobia. The Washington Post. https://www. washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/09/16/howmuslim-women-bear-the-brunt-of-islamophobia/ 3 Kanji, A. (2020, November). Islamophobia in Canada. OHCHR. https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/ Religion/Islamophobia-AntiMuslim/Civil%20Society%20 or%20Individuals/Noor-ICLMG-ISSA.pdf
5 Amnesty International. (2020, May). Criminalization and prosecution of rape in Canada (AMR 20/2422/2020). https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/ AMR2024222020ENGLISH.pdf 6 FACE. (2021). Investigation Reports. https://www. facetogether.org/investigations
32 1 Amnesty International. (2020, May). Criminalization and prosecution of rape in Canada (AMR 20/2422/2020). https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/ AMR2024222020ENGLISH.pdf 2 Conroy, S., Cotter, A., & Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. (2017, July 11). Self-reported sexual assault in Canada, 2014. Statistics Canada. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/en/ pub/85-002-x/2017001/article/14842-eng.pdf?st=bM51nb75 3 Rotenberg, C. & Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. (2017, October 26). From arrest to conviction: Court case outcomes of police-reported sexual assaults in Canada, 2009 to 2014. Statistics Canada. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/85002-x/2017001/article/54870-eng.htm 4 https://crcvc.ca/2015/10/16/every-6-days-a-woman-incanada-is-killed-by-her-intimate-partner-action-is-needed/
34 1 Basa, E. (2021, April 22). Toronto Named The Most Multicultural City In The World By The BBC. Narcity. https://www.narcity.com/toronto/toronto-named-themost-multicultural-city-in-the-world-by-the-bbc.
4 Department of Justice Canada, Research and Statistics Division. (2019, April). JustFacts - Sexual Assault. Department 2 Foxman, S. (2020, September 17). Black Patients Matter. of Justice. https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/jr/jf-pf/2019/ eDialogue. https://dialogue.cpso.on.ca/2020/09/blackapr01.html patients-matter/.
43 3 Garran, A. M., & Rasmussen, B. M. (2019, June 1). How Should Organizations Respond to Racism Against Health Care Workers? Journal of Ethics | American Medical Association. https://journalofethics.ama-assn.org/article/how-shouldorganizations-respond-racism-against-health-careworkers/2019-06. 4 Health Care Consent Act. Ontario.ca. (1996).https://www. ontario.ca/laws/statute/96h02. Raghuram, P. (2019). Race and feminist care ethics: intersectionality as method. Gender, Place & Culture, 26(5), 613–637. https://doi.org/10.1080/0966 369x.2019.1567471 5 Glass, K. (n.d.). From the cradle to the grave: How systemic racism affects Black women’s health. Today.com. https:// www.today.com/specials/how-systemic-racism-affects-blackwomen-s-health/.
38 1 Sarkawi, A. A., Abdullah, A., & Dali, N. M. (2016). THE CONCEPT OF SUSTAINABILITY FROM THE ISLAMIC PERSPECTIVES. International Journal of Business, Economics and Law, 9(5).
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