Islamic Horizons September/October 2020

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Cover Story

44 Building an Identity 46 Black Muslims in Canada

20 Muslims for Human Dignity: A Global Call The Struggle for Social and 22 Racial Justice: A Moral Imperative

Islam in America

ISNA Matters

48 Jihad Against Hunger 50 Tennessee Muslims Effectively Organize Against Islamophobia

8 The Personal Journey to Sacred Knowledge


An Interfaith Milestone

52 Fake Hafez: How a Supreme Persian Poet of Love was Erased

15 A Decade of Working Shoulder to Shoulder with Muslim Americans

26 Canadian Muslims Enrich Media

In Memoriam 18 The Lessons Muslim Americans Should Take from Rep. John Lewis

54 No, We're NOT all in This Together 55 Standing Together Against Injustice 57 Are School Shootings Good For A Student’s Mental Health?


Islam in Canada 24 The Muslim Communities of Canada 28 Ottawa Muslims Combat Covid-19 29 The Muslim Link 31 A Question of Identity 32 The Al Rashid Mosque 34 Muslim Torontonians 36 Muslim Canadians in the Coming Decade 38 The Muslim Experience in Canada 40 Nurturing Awe and Wonder 42 An Overview of Social Services


58 Muslim American Views on Organ Donation

Muslims Under Siege 60 The Horror of Being Muslim in India

57 Cultural Diversity: An Honest Truth

Departments 6 Editorial 10 Community Matters 62 New Releases

DESIGN & LAYOUT BY: Gamal Abdelaziz, A-Ztype COPYEDITOR: Jay Willoughby. The views expressed in Islamic Horizons are not necessarily the views of its editors nor of the Islamic Society of North America. Islamic Horizons does not accept unsolicitated articles or submissions. All references to the Quran made are from The Holy Quran: Text, Translation and Commentary, Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Amana, Brentwood, MD.



Living Virtually


his year, in addition to the approximately two million intending hajjis bearing the heartbreak associated with the canceled hajj season, the vast majority of Muslims will also be denied the traditional pleasure of welcoming their near and dear hajjis back home. Let’s pray that this will be the first and only pandemic-limited hajj. Heartbreak aside, this extraordinary health care disaster has opened up the world to new opportunities — ones built on the bedrock of recent technological advances. As ISNA president Dr. Sayyid Muhammad Syeed says, “It is now old news that the 57th Annual ISNA Convention is going to be unlike any previous one.” He asks us to remind ourselves of Surah al-Kahf, which announces that only God knows what He does and why He does what He does. On the one hand, the global coronavirus outbreak continues to cause massive suffering, while on the other hand we can see Him using it to lift all time and space limitations. As a result, this year’s event is the product of our unfettered imagination and unbridled extravagance. Given the convention's virtual format, gone are all of the former barriers, restrictions and overbearing costs! The lack of any need to invite speakers and guests to appear physically at a specific place and time has opened up the reality for the attendees to interact with our community’s respected authors, scholars, orators, leaders, nonprofit experts and representatives working in so many professions and fields — all from the comfort of their own homes. This is also true for our guest speakers from throughout North America and the world. We pray that our community benefits from this interaction.

As we were applying the final touches to this issue, the earthly departure of Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a Civil Rights icon, has saddened all thinking people. In his moving tribute, Edward Ahmed Mitchell, Esq., deputy executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, citing Rep. Lewis, stated, “When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to speak up. You have to say something; you have to do something.” This reminds us of a much earlier, and very similar, proclamation made by Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam): “Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart — and that is the weakest of faith” (“Sahih Muslim,” hadith no. 49). Let us act on Mitchell’s advice that as Muslims, we not simply issue token or empty remembrances, but reflect upon and replicate the work that God allowed Rep. Lewis to do. Islamic Horizons’ efforts to document the story of North America’s Muslim communities continue to bear results. More than a few graduate students have told us that they have relied on our content for such information. In keeping with this effort, this issue revisits the state of Islam in Canada. We are blessed that this task was graciously accepted by Syed Imtiaz Ahmad, emeritus professor at Eastern Michigan University, who, besides serving on several Islamic and civic organizations, has served as ISNA vice president and president as well as ISNA Canada vice president and president. We are confident that these articles will serve not only as a source of pride for Muslim Canadians, especially the younger generation, but also constitute a resource for scholars researching this topic.  ih


PUBLISHER The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) PRESIDENT Sayyid Muhammad Syeed EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Basharat Saleem EDITOR Omer Bin Abdullah EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD Iqbal Unus, Chair: M. Ahmadullah Siddiqi, Milia Islam-Majeed ISLAMIC HORIZONS is a bimonthly publication of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) P.O. Box 38 Plainfield, IN 46168‑0038 Copyright @2020 All rights reserved Reproduction, in whole or in part, of this material in mechanical or electronic form without written permission is strictly prohibited. Islamic Horizons magazine is available electronically on ProQuest’s Ethnic NewsWatch, LexisNexis, and EBSCO Discovery Service, and is indexed by Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature. Please see your librarian for access. The name “Islamic Horizons” is protected through trademark registration ISSN 8756‑2367 POSTMASTER Send address changes to Islamic Horizons, P.O. Box 38 Plainfield, IN 46168‑0038 SUBSCRIPTIONS Annual, domestic – $24 Canada – US$30 Overseas airmail – US$60 TO SUBSCRIBE Contact Islamic Horizons at (317) 839‑8157 / (317) 204-0187 Fax (317) 839‑1840 E-mail: ADVERTISING For rates contact Islamic Horizons at (703) 742‑8108, E-mail, To subscribe, please e-mail: CORRESPONDENCE Send all correspondence and/or Letters to the Editor at: Islamic Horizons P.O. Box 38 • Plainfield, IN 46168‑0038 Email:


The Personal Journey to Sacred Knowledge MYNA launches ISRAA to bridge the gap of access to Islamic knowledge and tarbiyya by female teachers for girls aged 12 to 18 BY MAHAM BAWANEY


SRAA seeks to bridge the gap of access to Islamic knowledge and tarbiyya by female teachers for girls aged 12 to 18. Unfortunately, many girls still have no possibility to intimately study with a female scholar, take part in Quran memorization programs, or study overseas. Given these negative realities, ISRAA was the outgrowth of a desire for ongoing classes in which girls can develop a deeper understanding of the deen in a comfortable setting and with teachers who understand their experiences. Today this dream is a reality. As an initiative of MYNA’s program department, ISRAA is planned and fully run by a youth committee of girls the same age as the students. Each eight-week course hopes to inspire both personal and spiritual growth while providing a platform for connection to fellow students and scholars. Some of the most recent course themes have included Aqeedah: Foundations of Faith, Women’s Fiqh Untangled, Purification of the Heart, Miraculous Moments: Tafseer of Surah Maryam and Secrets to Supplication. ISRAA has worked with a variety of knowledgeable female teachers, including Anse Tamara Gray, Dr. Rania Awaad and Sheikha Amina Darwish. These courses, which are offered on an interactive online learning platform, have been life-changing. ISRAA student Yasmeen Galle, who attended this year’s 2020 Women’s Fiqh Untangled course, stated that “ISRAA has expanded my Islamic knowledge tremendously and aided in empowering me as a young Muslim woman … I am grateful that I was able to gain useful information that I can implement in my daily life from such an outstanding and engaging teacher.” Other students have also shared reflections on specific lessons they have learned from ISRAA courses. Rida Hoque, a student in the Purification of the Heart course, said, “I [learned] how to detach myself from worldly items and instead focus on my relationship with Allah.” Life-changing is not an exaggeration when it comes to ISRAA. As this year’s chair of the course, I have seen students walk away with newfound Islamic knowledge, lifelong connections and a better understanding of their own spirituality. We work to make sure that every

girl who seeks a deeper understanding of Islam has access to ISRAA. Over 200 girls across the nation joined us in 2020 alone. But this is only the beginning. As we expand our base of students and connections to female scholars, we envision ISRAA continuing to reach new heights. Empowered women empower women! For more information on this initiative, visit


“Having a platform that’s for girls only made me feel incredibly comfortable to ask questions and to connect with the teacher. Israa gave me an opportunity to learn more about my deen and life in the time of the Prophet (PBUH)” — ASMAA ABDELDAIEM “ISRAA has expanded my Islamic knowledge tremendously and aided in empowering me as a young Muslim woman. I am grateful that I was able to gain useful information that I can implement in my daily life from such an outstanding and engaging teacher.” — YASMEEN GALLE


While many boys in our communities are hufadh of Quran, have attended programs (some overseas) to study their deen, and are given numerous opportunities to learn and even teach about Islam, the same is not as common or as accessible to girls. With ISRAA, we embarked on a journey to bridge the gap of access to Islamic knowledge and female teachers for girls between ages 12 and 18. ISRAA was born out of that desire to have an ongoing program where girls are given the opportunity to learn more about their deen


in a setting that is accessible and comfortable from teachers who understand their experiences. Through ISRAA, we hope to provide a means for personal and spiritual growth, and for connection to peers and scholars. ISRAA strives to unlock a path to knowledge for young female students. This initiative allows students to ask questions freely, engage with the material, and interact with their teacher and fellow classmates. ISRAA is a unique opportunity for female youth across the country to connect to teachers who will set them on a path of learning grounded in traditional sources.


This initiative started in September of 2017. In the last terms, we studied the Seerah of the Prophet (S) under the guidance of Sr. Noura Shamma and partnered with Rabata and Anse Tamara Gray to discuss Aqidah, the foundations of faith. This year’s first course’s topic was Women’s Fiqh Untangled, taught by Sheikha Rania Awaad, M.D. The second course’s topic was Purification of the Heart, taught by Lameess Mehanna, Amal Abdifatah, and Maysa Elsheikh. The third course of the year will be Miraculous Moments: Tafsir of Surah Maryam. Students have the opportunity to learn about the relevant themes that are present in this beautiful surah from the holy Quran while exploring its background and translation. Interacting with a female scholar will allow students to ask questions comfortably, and each week’s course will cover a different disease and/ or factor of guidance towards purification.* *Live attendance is highly recommended for maximum benefit, but recordings of the sessions will be available for registered students.


Sheikha Amina Darwish “Imamina” is the Muslim Life Coordinator at Columbia University. On campus, she is passionate about building a diverse and inclusive Muslim community. She earned ijazas, traditional Islamic studies certifications, from the Qalam seminary in Dallas, Tex. and the Critical Loyalty seminary in Toronto, Ont. She has also studied individually under different scholars from all over the world. She earned a PhD in chemical engineering before switching careers to follow her true passion of community building. She worked as an adjunct faculty at the University of Cincinnati Clermont and Northern Kentucky University. She also served as the content development coordinator for MYNA.  ih Maham Bawaney, a college freshman involved with MYNA since 2016, has worked within its program department, served as ISRAA chair and is MYNA’s executive committee program chair.

COMMUNITY MATTERS USAID Muslim Employees Zaid Shakir Agrees to Lead MANA Seek Harmony Among Imam Zaid Shakir has Imam Zaid sees MANA agreed to become the new as an historic organization People whose flourishing beneleader of the Muslim Alliance

In the aftermath of race riots, USAID’s ( Muslim American staff issued a statement that as federal workers, they strive to uphold the values embodied in both the nation’s founding documents and Islam’s tenets that we are all children of Adam who God has honored in our humanity (17:70). “It is therefore our affirmative obligation as citizens, Muslims, and public servants to always enjoin what is right, forbid what is wrong, and uphold the highest ethical standards,” they declared. The Muslim Americans made by this group, as well as the Employee Resource Groups at USAID, summarizes their common commitment to the sanctity of all life and specifically affirmed that “Black Lives Matter.” The Muslim American employees cited 5:32: “... whoever takes a life—unless as a punishment for murder or mischief in the land—it will be as if they killed all of humanity; and whoever saves a life, it will be as if they saved all of humanity.” They also cited “Musnad Ahmad,” hadith no. 22978, which states that the only things that set people apart is their righteousness and good actions. In other words, ethnicity and skin color are irrelevant. The most famous African Companion was Bilal (radiy Allahu ‘anhu). Although he wasn’t the only one, we should be aware of the following similarity: George Floyd died under the knee of a White officer, whereas Bilal survived the violence inflicted on him by his Arab owner Umayyah ibn Khalaf. He had Bilal laid out spread-eagled on the hot desert sand, whipped and beaten, and then ordered a hot boulder placed on his chest, all in an attempt to “convince” his slave to renounce Islam. Bilal refused. As Muslims, we reaffirm the sanctity of all life and proudly proclaim: “Black Lives Matter.” Just as the Prophet proclaimed equality and denounced racism, we pray that one day all Americans will come together in peace, dignity and respect.  ih

in North America (MANA). Zaid Shakir, an internationally recognized Islamic speaker and educator and one of MANA’s original founding members, is also the co-founder of Zaytuna College, in Berkley, Calif. He accepted the invitation of Imam Siraj Wahhaj, MANA's founding and long-time leader, to succeed him. MANA's board concurred. Speaking of MANA’s important historical significance, he said, “MANA is a great trust -- it is intricately connected to the history of many great pioneers whose tireless efforts and sacrifices have led to the African American community being the only indigenous community in the Western world to have a trans-generational Muslim presence. Such a communal engagement, argues Dr. Sherman Jackson, affords a degree of invaluable legitimacy to Muslims in America, especially those of African descent. If we do not build on that legitimacy it could well be lost and once lost it can never be regained. Such a loss would have deep implications for American Muslims.”

fits not only Muslim African Americans, but also all Muslims in the U.S. He plans to draw on the entire Muslim American community’s resources to ensure that MANA flourishes, because, “MANA’s success is our collective success — our beloved Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, ‘believers are unto each other like the individual bricks in a wall, each one strengthens and supports the next.’ We all need and must support one another, if our community is to be that strong wall” (“Sahih al-Bukhari,” hadith no. 481). Imam Zaid especially thanked all of those who have worked to establish MANA and to keep it viable for almost two decades. Besides taking on a new role with MANA, he continues to work with Zaytuna College and hopes that the two institutions can work together to help produce future leaders for our community. We pray for God’s blessing and guidance upon Imam Zaid in his new role of leader of MANA and look forward to seeing positive fruits emerge from his leadership.  ih

The Center for Islam in the Contemporary World at Shenandoah University (CICW) and the Muslim Student Life at Syracuse University (MSL) conducted a survey (https://www.contemporaryislam. org/covid-survey.html) to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Muslim students in higher education in the U.S.

of the questions from previous and ongoing data collection efforts conducted by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, Student Veterans of America and the Bob Woodruff Foundation. Conducted from March 30 through April 10, 2020, 498 students from 32 states completed the survey. The researchers asked

It found that the majority of them have no confidence in the federal government and the president to effectively respond to their pandemic-related needs. In contrast, they have far more confidence in state government and their school, while the majority has confidence in their local mosques, national Islamic institutions, their school’s Muslim chaplain and the MSA. The survey leveraged and adjusted some

100+ MSAs in 42 states to help disseminate the survey. It was also shared through the Association of Muslim Chaplains (AMC), Hartford Seminary, the National Association of Campus and University Chaplains (NACUC) and the Association for College and University Religious Affairs (ACURA). The resulting data show an overall increase in religious practice as well as higher levels of stress, anxiety and depression.


The Alija Izetbegović Foundation Established in Sarajevo The Muhammad Ali Center ( reopened to the public on July 1 after closing on March 14 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Located between historic Main Street and the Ohio River in downtown Louisville, Ky., the architecturally captivating Muhammad Ali Center offers beautiful river views, modern design, built-in audio/visual capabilities, outdoor spaces and urban appeal, as well as on-site programs, private events, group tours, student tours, a retail store and 2-1/2 levels of award-winning exhibits. Until further notice, the hours of operation will be Wednesdays-Sundays, 12:00 noon to 5:00 p.m. Obtain admission tickets at: https://19291.  ih Daily prayers, fasting, dhikr and optional prayers are sometimes approached routinely, without any deep understanding of or engagement with their higher and holistic objectives. This reality limits their effects and benefits on overall well-being. Given that Muslim students trust their local mosque and Muslim chaplain, institutions have been asked to connect with their local Islamic institutions to learn how to serve their Muslim students better. Schools without a Muslim chaplain should consider hiring one; schools that have one should reach out and decide how to best serve and assist Muslim students during this pandemic. The survey recommended that Muslim students should work with their local Islamic institution(s), Muslim chaplain and health/ wellness center to reduce any feelings of anxiety, stress and depression. Instead of just publicizing these services, counselors and chaplains should reach out to them. Counselors and wellness centers must familiarize themselves with these students’ potential specific needs and coping strategies. As the lack of health insurance could be another cause of anxiety, schools should

The Alija Izetbegović Foundation (https://www., which commenced its work in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H), will strive on its own and with other organizations to implement social initiatives and cultural programs in accordance with the view and intellectual legacy of Alija Izetbegović, the republic’s first president (1990-96). The nonprofit and nonpartisan foundation seeks to contribute to the republic’s progress and well-being of its people and citizens on the principles of freedom, equality, plurality and respect for diversity; connecting and promoting the intellectual potential of B&H society; and developing awareness of the importance of peace, nonviolence and social solidarity. In addition, it will foster personal development, social entrepreneurship, a scientific approach to societal issues and build ties with the diaspora. In particular, it seeks to contribute to the Bosniaks’ self-cognition and understanding of themselves as an indigenous European Muslim people, building on the objective evaluation and promotion of President Izetbegović’s intellectual legacy as a European Muslim thinker. Due to Covid-19-related circumstances, however, uncertainty exists as to when the foundation’s activities planned for this year — a workshop and summer school, forums and roundtables, an international conference and others — will be implemented. The founders are close associates, family members and supporters of Izetbegović’s work. The board members are Dr. Hilmo Neimarlija (president; member, General Assembly), Sabina Izetbegović Berberovic (former head of the cabinet under President Izetbegović), Muzaffer Cilek (founding chairman, Strawberry Foundation; member, General Assembly), Fikret Karcic (professor, Faculty of Law, University of Sarajevo), Zijad Ljevakovic (director, the Gazi Husrev-beg Medresa), Fikret Muslimovic (retired general; national security advisor) and Faris Nanic (former advisor to the late president). You can follow its work and activities on Facebook — fondacija.alijaizetbegovic and Twitter — Media contact:  ih consider providing it for up to a year after graduation. The report recommended that schools track the number of Muslim students; encourage them to self-identify and ask about their needs both during and after the pandemic (i.e., the need for a Muslim chaplain, a place to pray and access to halal food). They should ensure that these students achieve their academic goals and have meaningful internship and job opportunities. It also recommended that Muslim students work with their institution of higher education and its health/wellness center, and that the latter should communicate via email at least once a week; offer video chats, live discussion and counseling sessions and provide support and encouragement. Muslim students should ask their institutions to train their wellness and mental health counselors on proper interactions,

competencies, coping strategies and needs related to their beliefs and practices. For example, a Muslim chaplain can provide cultural competency training for anyone who works directly with Muslim students. Dr. Mirza Tihić of Syracuse University helped design, administer and interpret the survey’s data. Dr. Nina Ahmad won the hotly contested, six-way Democratic primary for Pennsylvania auditor general, leading her closest competitor by more than 70,000 votes. Dr. Ahmad, a molecular biologist and entrepreneur who served as deputy mayor of Philadelphia, is a former president of the Philly National Organization for Women. She also served




26, a Muslim who enlisted two years ago, and was shot and killed by a drunk man on July 4 in a Home Depot parking lot. On July 7, he was laid to rest with full honors. Family members and a sea of police officers attended from departments across Ohio and Michigan. “My son died a hero, and if he was ever given a choice, ‘Hey, do you want to die in bed sick, do you want to die in a car accident or do you want to die like this, a martyr,’ Anthony would choose this box 100%. He wouldn’t want to go out any other way,” his father Tony told a press conference. “He was a great father, a great husband, a great brother, a great friend and just such a great human being overall,” his cousin Moustafa Rahal said. “I didn’t have many friends in high school, but Anthony always tried his best and included me in everything. He always treated me as a brother.” Anthony is survived by his wife Jayme and two sons. Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz, added: “The Dia family has lost a son and a husband and a father, but it has gained 600 brothers and sisters — the police family here in Toledo. I might suggest that the Dia family has gained several hundred thousand more because Toledo is a family.”  ih

Islamic and Arab studies syllabuses for elementary and junior high students. He is currently a Board of Trustees member for the Islamic Teaching Center and North American Islamic Trust. Necva Ozgur is founder and executive director of Muslim Educators, Resource, Information and Training Center (MERIT;, as well as founding head of New Horizon School Pasadena and Bayan Islamic Graduate School in California Ahmed ElHattab, director of development at Sterling Charitable Gift Fund, was formerly executive director of ISNA Development Foundation, ISNA’s interim secretary general for several years and president of the Muslim Arab Youth Association (1986-87). Since 2012 he has been a board member of the American Islamic College in Chicago (AIC; https:// Shahéd Said Khan’s career extends over almost three decades and includes operating a global family-owned business. He has been involved in many cross-industrial manufacturing and service sector ventures in the U.S. He believes strongly that helping Islamic schools in the U.S. is vital. The new Waukee Islamic Center, located in a suburb of Des Moines, Iowa, received city approval for its 5,500-squarefoot single-story building, reported the Des Moines Register on June 16. The city’s first stand-alone mosque will accommodate Waukee’s Muslims. Masjid Sahabah, which has rented office space since 2013, had become too small to accommodate the growing community. The new center will have 50 parking spaces.

on President Barack Obama’s National Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Sufia Azmat, executive director of The Council of Islamic Schools in North America (CISNA; https://www.cisnausa. org), announced its advisory council members on June 25. Shaikh Abdalla Idris Ali (executive director, ISNA Canada) is a founder and senior advisor of CISNA who also served as ISNA president (1992-97). As principle of the ISNA Canada Islamic School for over a decade, he was integral in implementing

The Meriden (Conn.) city council has agreed to pay up to $45,000 to settle a federal lawsuit filed last year by the Omar Islamic Center, reported The Record-Journal on June 17. The planning commission


denied the center’s application to relocate to a long-vacant two-story building in March 2019. In this zone, property owners are allowed to obtain special exceptions for such uses as a school or a house of worship. The lawsuit had argued the commission “created a reason for denial that no place of worship could surmount,” adding that “the stated reasons (for the denial) are therefore in bad faith and evidence of the discriminatory intent of the commission...”

District of Columbia Center for AIDS Research (DCFAR) investigator Dr. Imtiaz Ahmed Khan, professor of microbiology, immunology and tropical medicine, School of Medicine and Health Services, The George Washington University, was awarded a Research Project Grant (R01). This original and historically oldest grant mechanism, used by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support for health-related research and development based on it mission, comes from NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and is entitled, "CD4 Dysfunction and Cerebral Toxoplasmosis." The project aims to study the factors that contribute to protective immunity against Toxoplasma gondii and evaluate changes in CD4 Central Memory T cells (TCM) during latent toxoplasmosis. Dr. Khan received his doctorate from the Institute of Medical Sciences at Banaras Hindu University, India, in 1983. He then worked as a senior resident in the Department of Clinical Microbiology at the Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences and Technology, Srinagar, (Indian-occupied) Kashmir. In 1986 he moved to the U.S. and joined the Dartmouth Medical School in New Hampshire as a postdoctoral fellow.  ih


Dr. Javida Rizvon, MD, who has a 20+ year practice, was appointed medical director at the A. Holly Patterson Extended Care Facility (AHP) on June 26. One of New York state’ largest nursing homes, AHP is recognized nationally as a model for skilled nursing facilities, which offers innovative care in an environment that treats the “whole” person. Dr. Rizvon, a graduate of India’s Madras Medical College, completed her residency training in internal medicine at Nassau County Medical Center. A certified HIV specialist, she has extensive experience in primary care, hospital medicine and care of the elderly. Her teaching roles include geriatric education of internal medicine and family medicine residents from Nassau University Medical Center and Hofstra University’s physician assistant students. The winner of multiple awards for outstanding patient care, her special interests include long-term ventilator, wound care and HIV management of the elderly. In addition to being board certified in internal medicine, she is also a member of the American Medical Directors Association. Yousef Saleh, a first-generation American born and raised in Jersey City’s Dr. Muhammad Shafiq, Ph.D., was appointed co-chair of Monroe County’s (N.Y.) 21-member Commission on Racial and Structural Equity (RASE) on June 18. He is professor and executive director, Hickey Center for Interfaith Studies and Dialogue and IIIT Interfaith Studies Chair at Nazareth College.

Co-chair and former Rochester mayor William Johnson emphasized that every institution in the county needs to be evaluated for structural change. But simply addressing what issues are at play will likely not be enough to spur any sort of substantial impact. Shafiq appreciated that the board is representative of the community at large and is poised to examine every nuance of systemic inequality Rochester mayor Lovely Warren and Monroe County executive Adam Bello said the commission will examine and develop recommendations around policies and legislation in areas such as education, health care, job creation, business development and social services. It will submit its report and recommendations for structural changes in the public and private sectors within six months.

The National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) recognized Dr. Iram Shaikh-Jilani, head of school of


Brighter Horizons Academy College Preparatory, Garland, Texas, as a National Distinguished Principal. Shaikh-Jilani, who was nominated by the Council of Islamic Schools in North America, is the second Islamic school principal and first Muslimah to receive this award. This award recognizes outstanding elementary and middle-level administrators for setting high standards for instruction, student achievement, character and climate for students, families and staff in their learning communities. Last year’s awardees included Habeeb M. Quadri (principal, the Muslim Community Center Academy, Morton Grove, Ill.), who is on the principal advisory board, a part-time staffer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Principal Center and the founder of High Quality Educational Consulting. Iram will be honored at an awards banquet in Washington D.C., during October. CISNA has been invited to attend this gala.

Upon his appointment on July 6, Capt. Adeel S. Rana became the first Pakistani-American to serve as a commanding officer of New York Police Department’s 84th Precinct. Rana, who was promoted to captain during September 2018, is president of the NYPD Muslim Officers Society — the nation’s first fraternal organization representing Muslim American law enforcement officers. Rana, a military veteran, has served as an NYPD officer for 15 years. The precinct includes Brooklyn Heights, Boerum Hill, Vinegar Hill and the Farragut Residences in Brooklyn.  ih


A Decade of Working Shoulder to Shoulder with Muslim Americans to Advance American Ideals A growing and expanding effort to counteract Islamophobia and anti-Muslim political rhetoric and actions BY CATHERINE ORSBORN


This year, faith communities are reflectn 2010, anti-Muslim sentiment and initiatives, including Ramadan gatherfilled the country’s airwaves as contro- ings, workshops, dinners and trainings, to ing on their accomplishments while renewversy raged over New York City’s “Ground help Americans come together across dif- ing their steadfast position against fear-monZero mosque” and Florida pastor Terry ferent religious backgrounds to build more gering and hate, as well as recommitting Jones was threatening to publicly burn the inclusive communities for all. to working together for an America that values and respects people and Qur’an. Reports of anti-Muslim communities of all faiths and discrimination and violence across the country were also at backgrounds. an all-time high. The following are just a few highlights of Shoulder to This level of rhetoric, discrimination and violence was Shoulder’s work. unprecedented. Thanks to strong •  Spring 2011. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) held a series of interfaith partnerships with Congressional hearings ampliISNA’s Washington, D.C. Office fying misinformation, fear and of Interfaith and Community Alliances, on Sept. 7, 2010, nearly discrimination against Muslims 40 senior religious leaders conin the U.S. In protest, Shoulder vened an emergency interfaith to Shoulder organized the leaders summit at the National Press of several Christian, Jewish and   Pastor Bob Roberts speaking at the Beyond Tolerance event at Club. Standing in solidarity with Muslim organizations for a press Washington National Cathedral, organized by Shoulder to Shoulder, Oct. 23, 2015 (Photo © West End Strategy Team) Muslim Americans, these faith conference near the hearing room, leaders released a powerful joint emphasizing that such attacks statement and held a press conchallenge the country’s claimed ference broadcast live by C-SPAN ideals of religious freedom and DESPITE THE ORGANIZATION’S and CNN, covered by multiple mutual respect. IMPORTANT GROWTH IN NUMBERS •  October 2015. In response national and international media outlets and attended by Obama to anti-Muslim rallies around the AND IMPACT, ANTI-MUSLIM White House staff. DISCRIMINATION REMAINS A CRITICAL country, we helped engage reliTen years later, there is a gious denominations and comPROBLEM. WE HAVE SEEN THE continued urgency to address munities in person and on social the harm that anti-Muslim dismedia. We directly organized GROWTH OF HATE CRIMES, BIGOTED crimination is doing to Muslim interfaith partners in Tennessee, RHETORIC, BULLYING AND ANTIcommunities and to our counTexas and Arizona; used email MUSLIM LEGISLATION SUPPORTED BY and social media action alerts try as a whole. The Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign (www.shoulA POLITICAL LEADERSHIP THAT SEEKS to encourage others to reach now out and support local Muslims; TO KEEP THE COUNTRY DIVIDED BY comprises 34 national religious and worked with the Huffington FEAR AND HATRED. denominations and organizations Post and the Christian Science Monitor to tell these stories and 60+ affiliated local community membership organizations nationwide. Despite the organization’s important of interfaith solidarity. The title of one It continues to help mobilize supportive faith growth in numbers and impact, anti-Muslim Huffington Post piece summarized it well: voices at the national level, in congressio- discrimination remains a critical problem. Sorry, Islamophobes, Your Anti-Muslim nal briefings and hearings, in major media We have seen the growth of hate crimes, Rallies Ended up Inspiring Acts of Love outlets and through joint statements and bigoted rhetoric, bullying and anti-Muslim and Service. advocacy efforts. We train local faith leaders legislation supported by a political leader•  October 2015. In partnership with the to address anti-Muslim bias more effectively ship that seeks to keep the country divided Sterling, Va.-based ADAMS Center, Shoulder in their communities and convene programs by fear and hatred. to Shoulder and the Washington National SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2020  ISLAMIC HORIZONS   15


Meet The Shoulder to Shoulder Team • Dr. Catherine Orsborn – Executive Director • Nina M. Fernando – Program Director • Cassandra Lawrence – Communications & Project Associate • Gary Sampliner – Senior Consultant, Advocacy Learn more about the Shoulder to Shoulder Staff at www.shouldertoshouldercampaign. org/staff  ih

Cathedral convened religious leaders and community members at the Cathedral for a multi-religious service, “Beyond Tolerance: A Call to Religious Freedom and Hopeful Action.” This was followed immediately by a press conference introducing the Religious Freedom Pledge. Media coverage included PBS, Religion Dispatches and Religion News Service, among others. In July 2016, partners from multiple national faith organizations delivered the Religious Freedom Pledge to all House and Senate offices. •  From 2014-2016, we brought cohorts of seminary students and emerging faith leaders to the ISNA Convention through the Emerging Religious Leaders Seminar. This helped them learn about the roots and manifestations of anti-Muslim bigotry in the country and to develop resources for engaging themselves and their faith communities in fostering positive inter-religious learning, relationships, solidarity and activism. •  December 2015. Responding to the presidential campaign’s growing anti-Muslim rhetoric, Shoulder to Shoulder collaborated with the Aspen Institute’s Inclusive America Project to write and organize an open letter. Signed by 50 faith leaders and placed as an advertisement in the Washington Post, it expressed alarm and opposed the growing levels of anti-Muslim campaign rhetoric. The Post followed it a day after (Dec. 22) with a feature piece —“Religious leaders are especially alarmed by anti-Muslim rhetoric.” •  During 2016. We began our Interfaith Iftar mapping project to connect individuals with communities. Every Ramadan we

Faith over Fear Trainings



present, Shoulder to Shoulder has run Faith over Fear training in 12 locations, ranging from large cities to rural towns. These sessions, which seek to equip faith leaders with effective strategies to better advocate against anti-Muslim bigotry and discrimination, draw upon the most up-to-date research, tools and strategies. We worked closely with partners at ReThink Media, OverZero and the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding to develop and refine the curriculum. Each training is centered around three core content modules: (1) helping participants understand and contextualize Islamophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry by exploring the relevant facts, figures and complexities; (2) discussing effective strategies for messaging and communicating for change by reviewing the underlying dynamics of why negative speech resonates so deeply with some individuals and communities, as well as specific recommendations on how to respond; and (3) exploring strategies for engagement and change. More specifically, they are encouraged to identify concrete ideas and tactics for educating others. As one participant stated, this training offered a “powerful experience [that] shifted my understanding and awareness.” This training program has engaged hundreds of faith leaders and is still being bought to communities, virtually and in-person, to further equip both of them to more effectively address anti-Muslim bias within their own congregations, cities and beyond.  ih

work to identify, uplift and connect people to attend iftars to help build local relationships among communities. This list has grown from a few dozen locations to over 500 iftars in 38 states. •  Following the November 2016 elections. Shoulder to Shoulder issued “What you can do to stand with American Muslims.” We quickly brought faith leaders together to hold a press conference at Masjid Muhammad in Washington, D.C. and released a sign-on statement from heads of faith denominations and organizations. The New York Times, Washington Jewish Week, the AP, PBS, the Huffington Post and several local news outlets covered this event. •  January 2017. When the “Muslim Ban” was announced in January 2017, we immediately began working with national Muslim and interfaith partners to push back. This included issuing a faith letter in response to the Supreme Court’s decision in June 2018, numerous visits during the fall/winter of 2018 and the spring of 2019 to members of Congress expressing our continued concern


about the ban and expressing the faith community’s support for the No Ban Act. We also worked with Church World Service to lead both a faith letter (300+ signatures from faith leaders and institutions) and a faith petition (nearly 1,000 signatures from clergy and lay individuals). The work to repeal the ban continues, as we advocate for Congress to pass the No Ban Act. •  January 2018. We held a pilot training program to support and equip faith communities to address anti-Muslim discrmination and violence in their own communities. This program, created in collaboration with local organizations in the Seattle area and members of our national coalition and experts, addressed these two issues. Our Faith over Fear training built on that pilot and has been convened in 12 cities and engaged 500+ community members. We are now developing a fully online version. •  August 2018. Shoulder to Shoulder, along with Muslim Advocates, MoveOn. org, Credo and Emgage, pushed back against Hyatt Hotels for hosting the annual ACT for America conference. We sent a faith letter

Shoulder to Shoulder’s Ramadan Campaign



Shoulder runs the Ramadan Supper Series: United States of Love over Hate. Through this initiative, we create and publicize a national listing of iftars open to the public to help facilitate local relationship-building among all communities. In 2019, this listing included over 528 iftars in 38 states. Unable to run this campaign in 2020 as usual, we instead offered a virtual iftar Welcome to My Table matching campaign. Sabeeha and Khalid, a Muslim couple who live in NYC, joined a virtual meal with Mandy and Kelly, Lutheran (ELCA) pastors in rural Minnesota. Mandy noted that, “We live in a small rural town … with a population of 1,000. The nearest house is a mile away.” Meanwhile, Sabeeha stated, “We live in a city with a population of 8 million, and the nearest resident is across the hall.” Mandy and Kelly have worked in their own congregations to dispel myths about Islam and Muslims and to encourage them to engage with people of other faiths. Sabeeha, after reflecting on their conversation, said that meeting the couple “restores one’s belief in angels.”  ih

directly to its CEO and participated in a press conference held outside a major Hyatt hotel in Washington, D.C. In turn, Hyatt Hotels issued a statement in the following months outlining a new policy against hosting hateful events. Shoulder to Shoulder responded with a statement of gratitude. •  Summer 2019. The organization visited five southeastern cities during its Ramadan Road Trip and collected stories and documented experiences from people building a country in which people of all faiths and cultural backgrounds are treated respectfully, fairly and with dignity. After 50+ interviews and story booth conversations in Raleigh (N.C.), Louisville, Nashville, Atlanta, Clarkston (Ga.) and Washington, D.C., our team developed a mini-documentary, a series of videos with accompanying video discussion guides that highlights the overall experience, along with a collection of conversations and stories about Ramadan, being Muslim in the U.S., the importance of

Meet Shoulder to Shoulder’s Executive Committee ■  Kathryn Mary Lohre, campaign co-chair, is an assistant to the presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and executive for Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations and Theological Discernment. ■  Rev. Ron Stief, campaign co-chair, is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and executive director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT), an interfaith organization of 300+ religious organizations and tens of thousands of Americans of faith committed to ending U.S.-sponsored torture forever. ■  Rabbi Esther Lederman is the Union for Reform Judaism’s director of congregational innovation and sits on the Central Conference of American Rabbis’ taskforce on the experience of women in the rabbinate. She is a board member for T’ruah. ■  Rev. Margaret R. Rose is deputy for Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations for The Episcopal Church. ■  Dr. Tony Kireopoulos is associate general secretary for Faith and Order and Interfaith Relations at the National Council of Churches. ■  Rev. Richard L. Killmer, co-founder, is a Presbyterian minister and founding executive director of NRCAT. ■  Dr. Mohamed Elsanousi, co-founder, is director of the Secretariat of the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers, a global network initiated by the UN Mediation Support Unit, the UN Alliance of Civilizations, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Religions for Peace, the KAICIID Dialogue Center and Finn Church Aid.  ih

Interfaith in Raleigh, N.C.

interfaith community building, how to be a better ally and more. Despite our efforts, there is much more work to be done. Anti-Muslim discrimination and bias continues to impact Muslim communities and those perceived to be Muslim. Anti-Muslim policies and experts are now institutionalized in the halls of power at the local, state and national levels. And yet people of faith and conscience have committed themselves to working alongside Muslim Americans to advocate for the country that we want for ourselves and our children — a country in which no one lives in fear because of how they look or worship. Religious denominations and faithbased organizations have reaffirmed their commitment to Shoulder to Shoulder’s work, as this excerpt from their statement of solidarity shows: “We take seriously the responsibility and necessity to speak up and take action, especially when the voice

of hate and exclusion comes from our own communities. We must equip our own communities with the proper spiritual and educational grounding to be emboldened to build bridges of understanding between our communities and our Muslim neighbors. And we must continue to counter harmful rhetoric and policies that negatively impact our fellow Americans who are Muslim or who are perceived to be. “Silence or inaction in the face of hate, discrimination, and violence is not an option. As faith leaders representing different backgrounds and beliefs, we reaffirm our active commitment to Shoulder to Shoulder so that we may live up to our American ideals and build a nation where all people are treated with dignity and fairness. Only by taking this stance, and continuing to act together, can faith leaders fulfill the highest calling of our respective traditions, and thereby help to create a safer and stronger America for all people.” We envision a U.S. in which people of all faiths and cultural backgrounds are treated respectfully, fairly and with dignity. We advance our vision by directly engaging faith leaders to be strategic partners in countering discrimination and violence against Muslims. Onward in faith, hope and love.  ih Catherine Orsborn, PhD, is executive director, Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign.



The Lessons Muslim Americans Should Take from Rep. John Lewis BY EDWARD AHMED MITCHELL

President Barack Obama, Rep. John Lewis (center), First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia flank grandmother Marian Robinson. They are waiting, along with former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush, to walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery civil rights marches, in Selma, Ala., on March 7, 2015. Former foot soldier Amelia Boynton Robinson, 103 years old (second from left). (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)


n the twenty-four hours after President Trump announced his first Muslim Ban on Jan. 27, 2017, thousands of protesters descended upon airports across the country. At that time, I was a civil rights attorney serving as executive director of CAIR’s Georgia chapter. When I arrived at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, I expected to find a small crowd of Muslim demonstrators cordoned off by Atlanta police officers. I was in for a surprise. Despite being one of the world’s largest and busiest airports, I had never seen a crowd like this. A sea of people — thousands of them — had forcibly taken over the airport’s outdoor arrivals area. Even more surprising — people who came to show solidarity with us vastly outnumbered the Muslims in the crowd. The rainbow crowd of Georgians carried all manner of signs produced in short order: “Muslim & Proud,” “Let Them In” and “No Ban, No Wall.” After navigating my way to an elevated spot with other speakers, I noticed a ripple

President Obama hugs Rep. John Lewis after his introduction. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

run through the crowd. A group of protesters suddenly parted in a straight line, creating a narrow pathway. That’s when I noticed the man working his way through the crowd. Although I could only see his broad shoulders and the top of his head, I knew I was looking at Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga). Rep. Lewis, then about 77 years old, had shown up to demand answers from


immigration officials about missing and detained travelers. After hours spent inside dealing with tight-lipped immigration officers, he made his way into the thick of the crowd outside. As protesters nearby recognized the legend in their midst, they stepped back, parting like the Red Sea, and began applauding. As I look back on that day, a thought occurs to me: John Lewis didn’t have to be there. He could have stayed home, directed his staff to issue a statement condemning the Muslim Ban and then watched the protests unfold on CNN. No one would have noticed or faulted him. Between risking his life at segregated lunch counters, aboard freedom rides and on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, John Lewis had done enough protesting to last a lifetime. His work had already paved the way for generations, including new Muslim immigrants and the descendants of indigenous African-American Muslims, to live more freely. He didn’t owe Muslim Americans or anyone else in our country more of his time. But there the congressman was at Hartsfield-Jackson airport, big as life. That wasn’t the last time we saw him on the frontline late in his life. From issues of gun violence to immigration, he showed up again and again to share words of wisdom and encourage protesters to get into “good trouble.” He made his last public appearance just weeks before his death at the Black Lives Matter mural painted on the street leading to the White House. As Muslim Americans and other communities carry on their respective fights to protect their rights in the face of resurgent bigotry, we should take at least two lessons from John Lewis’ life. First, our entire community — not just activists — must recognize that fighting injustice does not begin and end with Islamophobia or other matters that uniquely impact Muslims. After the Civil Rights movement achieved its major goals, John Lewis didn’t pat himself on the back, retire and forget about everyone else. Instead, he continued to advocate for the Black and other communities impacted by racial discrimination, economic inequality, American military adventures overseas and other issues. Many Muslim activist organizations have already taken this lesson to heart by playing a major role in the fight against racist

9th Annual ISNA-CISNA West Coast Education Forum

A Remembrance


SN A PR E SI D EN T D R . SAY Y I D Muhammad Syeed remembers his meetings with Rep. John Lewis, especially during his time as national director of ISNA’s Office for Interfaith and Community Alliances on Capitol Hill. Dr. Syeed said that Rep. Lewis was a very unique person, one who “continued to fight tirelessly against injustice till his last days of life,” adding ”May God reward him for his sacrifices and lifelong commitment to justice.” He once told Rep. Lewis that “we were like twins,” born the same year and being jailed for advocating for human rights and their peoples’ dignity — he for a short period, and Dr. Syeed for two years in an Indian jail. He informed Rep. Lewis of how his people, the Kashmiris, had been bought and sold against their will and that he had been born into a Muslim-majority Kashmir ruled by an absolute Hindu ruler. In fact, that ruler’s great-grandfather had purchased the princely state — comprising 85,000 sq. miles and 2 million inhabitants — from the British colonial rulers in 1846. The deal included payment of “one horse, twelve shawl goats of approved breed (six male and six female) and three pairs of Cashmere shawls.”

police brutality, the abuse of immigrants at the border and violence against women, among many other causes. But we can all do more, especially community organizations and houses of worship. We must care as much about the injustices here as we do about the injustices committed abroad. We must also ensure that we don’t limit the scope of our activism to issues advocated and sanctioned by one side of the political spectrum. If the political causes we’re willing to raise line up perfectly with the political issues raised by liberals or conservatives, then something is wrong. As Rep. Lewis said, “When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to speak up. You have to say something; you have to do something.” Every Muslim should recognize a similarity to the words of Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam): “Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his

Dr. Syeed reminisces that Rep. Lewis was amazed upon learning about how an entire nation had been enslaved. Dr. Syeed then recited the poet-philosopher Mohammad Iqbal’s verses about this deed: “Their fields, their crops, their streams, / Even the peasant in the vale, / They sold, they sold all alas, / How cheap was the sale.” Dr. Syeed — who crossed the Pettus bridge [ironically named for a Confederate general] with him on the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery march in 2015 — remarked that Rep. Lewis’ peaceful struggle has a universal appeal for Muslims and that he was popular among those Muslim youth fighting against Islamophobia.  ih

hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart — and that is the weakest of faith” (“Sahih Muslim,” hadith no. 49). As for the second lesson, we should remember that Congressman Lewis was not just an activist, but a faith-based activist. Although Lewis never became a minister, he was a graduate of American Baptist Theological Seminary and received a degree in religion and philosophy from Fisk University. His faith inspired and informed his civil rights activism. The same is true of many of the Civil Rights movement’s most prominent leaders, including the reverends C.T. Vivian, Joseph Lowery, Ralph David Abernathy and, of course, Dr. Martin Luther King (not to mention Muslim civil rights leaders like Malcolm X). Their faith inspired their words, their goals and their tactics, including the use of

October 9 – 10, 2020 Santa Ana, CA Contact Email: or Call: (317) 839-1825 nonviolence. Nonviolence was not just a strategic decision for John Lewis, but a moral decision dictated by his understanding of his faith: “I believe in nonviolence as a way of life, as a way of living.” Today, a few too many Muslim activists have separated political activism from religion. If we truly believe in God, then God should guide both what we advocate for and how we advocate for it. That is, our words, our goals and our tactics. Faith without activism is arguably deficient, but activism without any faith is almost certainly dangerous. Over the past several days [after he passed away], many American leaders have issued public statements memorializing Rep. Lewis, including quite a few politicians who have dedicated their careers to undoing the civil rights work that he did. As Muslims, we should not simply issue token or empty remembrances, but rather reflect upon and replicate the work that God allowed him to do. No leader in our time is perfect, but we can learn something from every one of them, especially Congressman John Lewis. May God guide his family, preserve the good he did and allow us to carry on the fight for justice.  ih Edward Ahmed Mitchell, Esq., is deputy executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.



Muslims for Human Dignity: A Global Call The dignity of all individuals is a core Islamic principle BY MOHAMMAD OMAR FAROOQ


aking a glance at the Muslim world, it’s quite a stretch to talk about a “global call” let alone presenting a model for others to emulate. After all, for several centuries it has appeared dizzyingly fragmented, disoriented, disunited and dysfunctional. While the problems and issues for the rest of the world might be somewhat different in nature and scale, most countries are contending with deeper issues. For example, in the U.S., part of humanity “can’t breathe” and needs to be reminded of this truth by the Black Lives Matter movement. In parts of Europe, racial discrimination and ghettoization are widespread and not all Muslims have the basic freedom to wear the dignified attire of their choice. In China, people lack basic liberty. The country is steadily gaining economic and military power and asserting itself forcefully, as in the formerly British-occupied Hong Kong, or repressively, as in what used to be the Uyghur Muslim-majority province of Xinjiang. From the continuing conflicts in Indian-occupied Kashmir and Israelioccupied Palestine, everywhere one looks human dignity — the dignity associated with just being human — is at stake. Comparatively, the Muslim world’s condition is, in general, worse. The post-colonial dismembered Muslim world of nation states had hardly any truly independent entities, for almost all of them gradually became appendages of the colonial legacy and essentially served the interests of the former colonial masters or of the privileged domestic group that had its grip on the political and economic power in most of them. As history shows, their role was to serve themselves or their colonial patrons, not their people. Parallel to the rampant concentration of wealth and resources, poverty and corruption, there isn’t a lot of positive things to say about most Muslim-majority countries. Conflicts based on and shaped by internal and external dynamics are raging in the Muslim world. Wars are imposed on them, and being played by external powers and

interests engenders many fratricidal conflicts. Extremists play their own tunes, and God only knows what their moral boundary is, as they attack people indiscriminately, especially on a sectarian basis. Various Muslim-majority countries are adding fuel to the fires of hunger and devastation in Syria , Libya and Yemen, instead of trying to establish justice and bring peace. Palestine keeps bleeding, Israel shrewdly and masterfully pursues its monstrous dream of the Greater Israel and some key Muslim-majority countries are prostrating themselves at its feet. Given all of this, is it at all relevant for the world’s Muslims to take a stance? This indeed is a pertinent issue, for Muslims have something that others do not and thus have a pivotal role to play in this regard. Throughout history, self-centeredness has been an inalienable aspect of human traits. It has manifested itself at the individual, tribal and racial levels, and today through nationalism as nation-states. Decadent for a long time due to many internal factors, even the Muslim world has been sucked into this ruinous path. The worst manifestation of such nationalism has occurred in Europe, the cradle of Western civilization, in the form


of two continental wars that eventually became world wars. The long-fragmented Muslim world was easily placed on the chessboard as the colonizers’ pawns. As an appendage to this legacy, it continues to manifest a disorientation and delinkage from its original transcendent civilizational and religious root, because nothing Islamic can be self-centered. The Muslims’ aspiration is distinctively special, with a common thread binding us all at the level of humanity. At that level, irrespective of race, religion, language, nationality, gender or culture, we are one — one common humanity, of which human dignity is the foremost concern. This is where all modern societies have failed dismally. If we want to pick up the pieces and move toward a better future for everyone, then we need to transcend our parochial, self-centered mentality and perspective and embrace a sense of global belonging or, more aptly, a humanity-centered orientation. That means that even Muslims cannot be Muslim-centered. Seriously? Yes, seriously. In my “Toward Our Reformation: From Legalism to Value-oriented Islamic Law and Jurisprudence” (International Institute of Islamic Thought, 2011), several specific Quran-based values were mentioned as part of the value-orientation, among them humanity orientation and global belonging, on the basis of: “You are indeed the best community that has ever been brought forth for [the good of] humanity: you enjoin the doing of what is right and forbid the doing of what is wrong, and you believe in God ...” (3:110). The Quran unambiguously states that God meant for Muslims to be a community that serves everyone. “O humanity! Revere your GuardianLord, the One who created you from one being, and created from it its mate, then spread from the two many men and women; Revere God, through whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (revere) the wombs (that bore you): for Allah ever watches over you” (4:1).

Here the Quran addresses all humans so that there is no self-centeredness, as shown by many Muslims. Rather they are to be a witness and model: “And thus we have made you a just and balanced community that you will be witnesses over the people and the Messenger will be a witness over you” (2:143). Like the rest of humanity, in general Muslims have also forgotten their humanity-orientation and severed their bond with humanity. At the level of faith,

and modern nationalism, which virtually let people worship and glorify their tribes or nations, are incompatible with Islam as a deen and its values and principles. In addition, Muslims need to nurture, develop and feel a special bond for the umma. Because Islamic identity is one of choice, not lineage, this sense and level of belonging is of great importance. However, even this attachment must not be allowed to conflict with Islam’s humanity-orienta-

HUMANITY’S ACHIEVEMENTS AND JOYS ARE NOT ISOLATED FROM THE UMMA AND MUSLIMS MUST HAVE A SHARE IN THESE AND NOT ONLY REJOICE WHEN GOOD THINGS HAPPEN TO THEM. SUCCUMBING TO A SENSE OF ESTRANGEMENT THAT LEADS TO THE DEFAULT VIEW THAT THE REST OF THE WORLD CONSTITUTES “THE OTHER” MUST BE RESISTED. MUSLIMS CANNOT JUST FEEL THE PAIN AND AGONY OF THEIR OWN SUFFERING, BUT MUST BE IN TUNE WITH THE TRIBULATIONS OF HUMANITY AT LARGE. Muslims are expected to uphold the truth and seek and strengthen their bond at the level of the umma. At another level, they are to connect with humanity via a clear humanity-orientation. Why is this sense of humanity-orientation and global belonging important? Because only with this orientation can the role of “khayr umma (the best of nations) produced to serve humanity” (3:110]) be fulfilled. As human beings, we have multiple levels of belonging: family, nation, country and umma. At yet another level, we all belong to one humanity. None of these levels needs to be conflicting. Our biological and other bonds connect us with our family and relatives. With the greater mobility of modern times, national belonging is more fluid. All of these belongings can be important and indispensable, but we can also reconcile them. Unfortunately, human beings’ sense of belonging is rather messed up. Any society or nation that embraces the nation-state concept and nationalism to such an extent that its members glory in it and even give their life for it risks abandoning its moral principle or norms, because such patriotism usually means “my country, right or wrong, ethical or unethical, just or unjust.” However, such an attitude is un-Islamic and therefore unacceptable. Of course communities, administrative structures and their components give rise to nations, but the concepts of ancient tribalism

tion, for this spirit of affinity enables the realization of the Quranic phrase “evolved for humanity.” Humanity’s achievements and joys are not isolated from the umma, and Muslims must have a share in these and not only rejoice when good things happen to them. Succumbing to a sense of estrangement that leads to the default view that the rest of the world constitutes “the other” must be resisted. Muslims cannot just feel the pain and agony of their own suffering, but must be in tune with the tribulations of humanity at large. Here, what the others do or believe is irrelevant, for Muslims are guided by Islam’s principles, values and vision, the Quran and the Prophet’s (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) legacy. Imbued with the spirit of global belonging, Muslims must seek common ground for worthy causes and should be at the forefront of fostering the spirit of global belonging. One of the most salient aspects of the Prophet’s Farewell Message is his explicit statement that Arabs are not superior to non-Arabs and Whites are not superior to Blacks, except in taqwa (God consciousness). This resonates with: “O humanity, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of God is the most righteous (God-conscious) of you. Indeed, God is Knowing and Acquainted” (49:13).

Regrettably, and despite these above reminders, Muslims still practice ethnic and skin color discrimination. Consider the ramifications of humanity-orientation. If we treated the conflicts in Afghanistan, Yemen and Syria as a family issue devoid of all other parochial factors, these conflicts would have been handled in a far different manner. Maybe they would not even have started. If the Palestinians and Israelis could embrace humanity-orientation and affirm their mutual human dignity, a fair and lasting peace to that longstanding conflict would not have become so impossible. If we uphold universal human dignity, we would feel ashamed that so much abundance, luxury and military extravagance exists beside at least the one billion people living in poverty, even abject poverty, and that hunger and famine kill millions of people each year. If people had universally upheld fundamental human dignity, slavery would have ended long before it actually did, and any lingering trace of racism would have been confronted and extinguished. Embracing human dignity would have made businesses, industries and policymakers prioritize people’s broader welfare instead of sacrificing it to the pursuit of profit and damaging the environment. Humanity-orientation means recognizing each person’s fundamental sanctity and dignity and treating them fairly and caringly, as if we actually were members of one family. This doesn’t mean that families are perfect or that people are simply going to become angels. However, when a society embraces human dignity, challenges and issues can be addressed or minimized in a constructive and effective way. In today’s world, the message of Islam, especially that of upholding fundamental human dignity, is as fresh and relevant as ever. Thus Muslims should be the first ones to step forward by transcending their parochial mindset, embracing humanity-orientation and setting a good example. Nothing is better and more effective than leading by example. Today, given our world’s infestation with ideas, philosophies, ideologies and systems that thrive on division, domination and claims of supremacy, Islam’s liberating and enduring message of human dignity for all remains intact. God will hold us accountable for what we did to bring it from theory into reality.  ih Dr. Mohammad Omar Farooq is an associate professor with the Department of Economics and Finance at the University of Bahrain (



The Struggle for Social and Racial Justice: A Moral Imperative BY ISLAMIC HORIZONS STAFF


his year’s theme — The Struggle for Social and Racial Justice: A Moral Imperative — was chosen to reflect a virus that has plagued humanity for far longer than the coronavirus: racism. Our 57th annual convention, which will be held on Sept. 5 and 6, will bring our community together in a virtual setting to experience the year’s most awaited event. Although it will have a new feel, as usual it will be full of inspiring messages and a variety of programs. All in all, it will be a unique experience to connect and learn together. From the Covid-19 pandemic to race relations in our country, our society continues to graple with economic and health care disparities, immigration, religious freedom, the environment, education and more. For 57 years, ISNA has been serving the Muslim community through its annual convention, regional conferences, youth programs, interfaith alliances, education forums, chaplaincy and masjid services, scholarships, nonprofit management training and more. Through its inspirational and impactful leadership and activities, ISNA has been an important part of Muslim American life. In this current environment, ISNA has founded and pursued major initiatives, among them setting up a National Muslim Covid-19 Taskforce with more than 40 organizations, conducting virtual programs with national speakers and experts, providing a featured program — “Friday Reflections” — participating in interfaith programs and issuing statements on important topics. ISNA remains fully committed to developing the Muslim community, enhancing interfaith relations, engaging in civic engagement and bringing about a more accurate understanding of Islam. Its board members and staff constantly strive to achieve

organizational excellence through operational efficiency, transparency, accountability, high performance, effective communication and financial stability. “We are ready to take this organization to the next level and open a new chapter at ISNA. As we embark on this new journey with a renewed commitment, I take solace in the fact that we have a committed board, staff, volunteers and important stakeholders and supporters like you. We are committed to nurturing a culture that enables greatness, encourages openness and helps us provide services to our members and the community at large,” said ISNA executive director Basharat Saleem. Many renowned speakers will address topics that are important and relevant to our community’s current issues and needs, among them the Covid-19 pandemic, social and racial justice, the environment, civil rights and



political activism. The program will include plenary, parallel and entertainment sessions, as well as special events, a virtual Expo and many other events. Sponsorship opportunities will be offered during the two-day event, and on Sept. 5th a community leader will be honored for his/her service during the Community Service Recognition program. As a community, all of us are responding to the coronavirus with resilience. We invite everyone to counter the shock of the ongoing pandemic, recession and injustices and confront these unprecedented challenges with the power of faith. This call to join the first-ever ISNA virtual convention is designed not only to replicate the typical in-person annual retreat, but also to provide participants with digital venues for scholarly engagement and intimate networking. In reality, the Covid-19 restrictions have turned out to be an opportunity to bring together a larger number of participants who wouldn’t have been able to attend this event. While ISNA is committed to preparing the virtual platform from which we will unleash our individual potentialities, our active participation, from individuals to families to the community as a whole, is indispensable to harnessing the possibilities opened up by this year’s virtual convention.

WHAT TO EXPECT This year’s convention will follow the same principles that have ensured the success of the previous ones, as well as create new possibilities for those who were previously unable to attend. Among the featured events well be: ■  Plenary and parallel sessions on Covid19, racism and race relations, the environment, civil rights, political activism and more. ■  Special events, including the Com­ munity Service Recognition program with

COVER STORY an award presentation, a children’s program, a chaplaincy program, an interfaith panel, a panel on social good and entertainment. ■  Expo and sponsorship opportunities for businesses and organizations. ■  Networking opportunities.


■  Social Issues. Promoting social and racial justice, civil rights and the social good, along with condemning systemic racism, inequality, prejudice, police brutality and violence against minorities. ■  Spirituality. Faith in action, seeking help from prayer and maintaining hope in difficult times; spiritual guidelines for individuals, families and communities; the role of the masjid and the imam during a time of crisis; and a Q&A session on fulfilling Islamic duties in daily life. ■  The Current Health Crisis. Dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, future projections, new ways of healthy living, social distancing, the pandemic’s impact on social relations and disparities within the health care system. ■  Economy and Business. The financial implications of the pandemic, unemployment, impact on businesses, managing financial matters during and after the pandemic and health insurance for the underprivileged. ■  The Environment. Climate change, environment-friendly masjids and raising awareness about the environment. Climate change will have a far more negative economic effect globally than Covid-19, especially on Muslim-majority countries. ■  Education. Online education, post-pandemic schooling, religious instruction, parents’ role in educating children during the pandemic, affordable higher education and scholarship programs from Muslim organizations and sources. ■  Political Activism. Participation in local and national elections, creating a Muslim vote bank, joining political campaigns and a workshop on how to run for political office. If you’ve already registered, your registration has been transferred to the 2020 Virtual Annual Convention and you should have received an email from us. If you have not registered yet, please visit Transitioning to a virtual annual convention will raise many questions. Therefore, we have developed and uploaded a FAQ page on our weekly e-newsletter and continue to update it as more information becomes available. For more detailed questions, contact us at We are grateful for your patience and cooperation as we work through the competing priorities and obligations thrust upon us by this unprecedented situation.  ih ISLAMIC HORIZONS   23



t is now old news that the 57th Annual ISNA Convention is going to be unlike any previous one. Therefore, let’s remind ourselves of Surah al-Kahf — the 18th chapter of the Quran — which reveals that only God knows what He does and why He does it. On the one hand this pandemic is causing massive suffering, while on the other hand we can see that He has used it to remove all of the limitations of space and time, thereby enabling us to plan this event with an unfettered imagination and unbridled extravagance. A virtual format removes the need to invite speakers and guests and opens up the panorama for attendees to interact with world leaders, scholars, experts and intellectuals without barriers, restrictions and overbearing costs. This is also true for our guest speakers from throughout North America. We can benefit from our community’s respected authors, Islamic scholars, orators, community leaders, nonprofit experts and representatives working in so many professions and fields. From the comfort of our homes, we will be able to interact with the top Muslim and non-Muslim experts on the Covid-19 pandemic. The nation’s valued engineers, internet prodigies and heads of financial and technology companies will vie to be included and heard. Fifty-six years ago, Malcolm X prayed that the hajj experience would bring people of different colors and races to the U.S. to be part of a hajj-like gathering. This year, Saudi Arabia’s decision to restrict the actual hajj to a few of its residents challenged us to provide an event of such solidarity here in the U.S. Thus, we built a vision of our convention on those premises. As we are now in the election year, politicians of various hues will be eager to talk to Muslims. We have to build high expectations so they will feel that doing so is a worthwhile undertaking. We will deliver top regional and national leaders, thereby raising our organization’s national and international profile. We will have Democrats and Republicans, as well as those who have traditionally been excluded from this country’s two-party structure, analysts, pollsters and experts with political acumen. This virtual format allows us to host and publicize multiple parallel sessions effectively. As there will be no “hierarchy of importance,” the First Amendment will be practiced in both its letter and spirit, for people will be free to choose whatever session(s) they wish to attend. Therefore, no presenters will need to feel inadequate because they couldn’t attract the envisaged audience. The audience will be invisible, so no one will fret that the hall is empty. We won’t have to determine which hotspots should be highlighted: Palestine, Kashmir, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Xinjiang (East Turkestan) or Myanmar. We can have a continuous two-day session on each of them and catch up with the latest news. We can have experts on all 57 Muslim-majority countries and Muslim minorities. We will record all speeches and discussions and upload them to ISNA’s YouTube site. No one will have to regret that they couldn’t attend all of the sessions, because the ones they missed will be available online perpetually. The bonanza coming our way reminds me of a couplet from poet-philosopher Mohammad Iqbal’s Shama Aur Shayar (The Candle and the Poet; “Bang-e-Dra,” 116): O ignorant one! Only you became content with some flower buds. Otherwise in the rose garden there is also a cure for the receiver’s small capacity! Please open your hearts, unwind your imagination and visualize the world’s largest convention — an event rich with thoughts, words, people and parties, hopes and ideas. Imagine that you are catering this bonanza for the entire world, insha’ Allah. May God inspire His people with confidence, vision and hope. Sayyid M. Syeed, President The Islamic Society of North America


The Muslim Communities of Canada Glimpses of Muslim life in the provinces BY SYED IMTIAZ AHMAD AND SYED AFAQ MOIN NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR


he Muslim Asso ciation of Newfoundland and Labrador, formed in 1982, opened Newfoundland’s sole mosque, Masjid an-Noor, in 1990 at St. John’s, Newfoundland. The first documented presence of Muslims here dates to 1964, when Dr. Muhammad Irfan joined the Memorial University of Newfoundland’s Department of Physics. Today, there are more than 200 families and many university students.

PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND The Muslim Society of Prince Edward Island (PEI), which was established in 1990, opened Masjid Dar As-Salam, the first permanent mosque, on July 14, 2012. A writer for the Great Canadian Mosque Trip organization wrote, “When future Muslims look back at the Muslim community in P.E.I, I want them to remember the name Farida Chishti. In my opinion she is the mother of the community. Combine the friendliness of an East Coast Canadian, the diplomacy of a diplomat and the sweetness and love of a mother and you have Farida Chishti.”

NOVA SCOTIA Founded in 1966, the Islamic Association of Nova Scotia (IANS; formerly the Islamic Association of the Maritime Provinces of Canada) is one of the country’s oldest Muslim organizations. Built in 1971, Dartmouth’s IANS Mosque claims to be one of the country’s first, if not the first purpose-built, mosques. It was built on a Muslim-owned undeveloped piece of land. Dr. Jamal Badawi (professor emeritus, Saint Mary’s University, Halifax) was appointed the first imam. In 1984, a full-time Halifax Islamic School was established and registered with the Department of Education. In an interview with the Global News (Jan. 31, 2017), following an attack on a mosque in Quebec, Emad Aziz of Halifax said, “The

way to deal with prejudice is with courage and hope and when we communicate, we share our stories, our experiences and we realize how much we can learn from one another.”

NEW BRUNSWICK The history of New Brunswick Muslims dates to the late 1960s and early 1970s, when a handful of Muslim families settled primarily in Saint John, the province’s largest city. Above-average economic growth, especially in Saint John, during the mid-1970s helped increase their numbers. The City of Saint John gave them rent-free use of a large part of a city-owned building. The arrival of Muslims in Fredericton and Moncton during the mid to late-1970s also boosted the community’s morale, for these smaller communities turned to the now relatively more organized Saint John community for guidance and support. A new era began when the province’s Muslims united under the umbrella of the Saint John-headquartered Muslim Association of New Brunswick. The Muslims nourished their faith and Islamic identity by scheduling rotational communal gatherings on Sunday. These meetings typically followed a set pattern: dhur prayers, religious teaching sessions for adults and children and a communal enjoyment of light refreshments. Abid Syed Sheikh, who immigrated from Uganda some 50 years ago, was involved in everything — starting prayer services, helping organize and plan mosques and Islamic centers, dispensing advice to communities interested in setting up their own organizations. History was made when the Provincial Legislative Assembly passed a bylaw authorizing the nationwide solemnization of marriages performed “by a church or religious denomination” (Marriage Act, RSNB 2011, c 188) in New Brunswick. One mosque, built between 19841985, was designed to be functional yet reflect some Islamic architecture (http://

24    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2020 saint-john.html) — the first of its kind in the Atlantic Provinces. Coinciding with the beginning of the 15th hijri century, the community organized the “Hijrah Bazaar,” a huge fundraising event that attracted Muslims and non-Muslims from all over the province and received very positive media coverage. The Fredericton Islamic Organization, the Moncton Muslim Association and similar institutions, as well as musallas and more mosques, do their best to serve the growing community.

QUEBEC The Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City was founded at Université Laval in 1985 “to work proactively to help the Muslim community grow and flourish spiritually, socially, and economically as well as to provide services that properly consider the specific Muslim identity of its members and promote their integration into Quebec society.”

invested himself so deeply in teaching it to us. … today, I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve thanked my dad for insisting [that I do so, although] my appearance contains no outward display or signs of Islam.”

SASKATCHEWAN The Regina Islamic Centre and Mosque, the community’s focal point, was built over 30 years ago. To accommodate the unprecedented increase in numbers, the center has gone through many renovations. It supports several educational, social, religious and sports programs, as well as a full-service library of Islamic books in both Arabic and English. Another Muslim woman featured in the Canadian Living online magazine, Tendisai Cromwell of Edmonton, said that while riding the bus one day a middle-aged man gestured at her paisley head wrap: “He tells me he finds it beautiful and wonders if I come from elsewhere. ‘Africa?’ he asks. He’s polite. I’m polite. He smiles. I smile.’ … She did not tell the man that her headscarf is a hijab … she is an invisible Muslim.”


The Jan. 29, 2017, mass shooting at the mosque shocked a community already numbed by the ongoing Islamophobia. “Some people say at least we live in Canada. This is what we say to ourselves to cope, but (the shooting) is an unfriendly reminder of how Islamophobia is well and alive in the country” said one Muslim. The June 22, 2017, issue of Canadian Living online magazine (https://www. contains narratives from three Muslimahs. Fariha Róisín of Montreal, talks about Bill 60 (the Quebec Charter of Values), introduced in 2013 to prohibit religious symbols at work. “I was astounded,” she said, “to read the news and see how hostility toward Muslims was inherent in Canada in a way I hadn’t expected. I saw the racism first and began to feel myself question this place I had been drawn to, a place I thought was home.” Torontonian Pacinthe Mattar stated, “I learned [Islam] only because my dad

The nonprofit British Columbia Muslim Association (BCMA), founded in 1966 and representing nearly 60,000 Muslims, is the province’s largest Muslim organization. In 1980, Muslims living in Vancouver and its suburbs could only observe the Friday prayers in one location. Today, they can choose from 15 locations in the Greater Vancouver area alone, as well as centers in such outlying areas as Kelowna, Nanaimo, Abbotsford, Prince George and Victoria. BCMA owns and operates eight mosques and two Islamic schools; more are planned.

YUKON, NORTH WEST TERRITORIES (NWT) AND NUNAVUT The Canadian north’s four mosques serve small Muslim populations of several hundred families, who are primarily professionals (e.g., engineers, geologists and government employees) and transportation providers. Given their location in a permafrost region, three of them were prefabricated in the south and transported on ice roads to their current locations. The Zubaidah Tallab Foundation of Winnipeg, Manitoba, donated them. Yukon’s Whitehorse Mosque was built locally. Their proximity to the North Pole, and thus lack of complete darkness during the summer, caused them to agree upon

following the nearest major city’s daily prayer and fasting (Ramadan) times. In 2016, the Yukon Muslim Society completed the first phase of the provincial capital’s — Whitehorse — first mosque. The C$600,000 initial project served 50 families; it’s now being expanded. North West Territory has two mosques, one in Yellowknife and the other in Inuvik. The Yellowknife Islamic Centre, originally an ISNA Canada project, was built over 50 years ago on an existing residential building. To serve the growing community, the original Islamic Center of Yellowknife was demolished in 2019 and the new center is being built from scratch. The Canadian Islamic Trust Foundation purchased adjacent land — by far its largest undertaking in the province. The Iqaluit Masjid, a project of Islamic Society of Nunavut, is that province’s first and North America’s northernmost mosque. Built during 2009-2016 to serve over 100 families, it features a slim crescent moontopped minaret; holds the five daily, Friday and Eid prayers as well as open houses and various community events; and serves as a food bank distribution center. After being transported 2,800 miles from Winnipeg, on Nov. 10, 2010, it began serving the town’s approximately 100 Muslim residents. At its inauguration, then-mayor Denny Rodgers stated, “We’re very much a multicultural town up here … Canada itself is a melting pot, and Inuvik, when you look at all the different cultures that are represented here, is just like that. “The Muslim community is a very inclusive community. They’re reaching out and they want the community to come and see their new mosque. They want to share their excitement with us, and that’s great.”  ih Syed Imtiaz Ahmad, emeritus professor at Eastern Michigan University, has served as ISNA vice president and president; ISNA Canada vice president and president; president of the Computer Science Association of Canada, the Association of Pakistani Scientists and Engineers of North America, the Pakistan Canada Association and the Windsor Islamic Association; and as chair of the ISNA Canada School Board. He is currently the Rotary Club of Palgrave’s international service director. Syed Afaq Moin, an adjunct professor at McMaster University and Ryerson University and a consultant on an international study in Lake Champlain, worked most of his career at Environment Canada and served as Canadian chair for the International Rainy Lake Board of Control and International Lake of the Woods Control Board. He also represented the federal government on the Canadian Lake of the Woods Control Board. He was consulted by the World Meteorological Organization, UN Disaster Preparedness and UNESCO for international projects in Mexico, Jamaica and Iran.



Canadian Muslims Enrich Media Participation, perspectives and prowess matters BY TAHA GHAYYUR

Steven Zhou, another young Torontobased Canadian Muslim journalist, writer and producer, regularly publishes articles on national security, discrimination and farright extremism. His writings have appeared in Foreign Policy, Vice News, Salon, Al Jazeera English, CBC News, the Globe and Mail, Toronto Life and the Ottawa Citizen, to name just a few. These individuals aren’t only telling stories that matter to them and the community, but to all Canadians.



f you ask a common Muslim Canadian “Name the biggest challenge our community faces today,” the typical response will be “The media!” While this is a lazy response to a very complex problem, over the past two decades the media has rightfully been viewed as a major contributor to Islamophobia. Many point fingers at corporate outlets focused on selling sensational stories. Others blame biased reporters, writers, journalists and producers bent upon presenting Muslims as an uncivilized and insular monolith. Many Muslim leaders complain that the media ignores their press releases and their stories. Over the last decade or so, many Muslim Canadians have realized that playing victim is not the answer. They are no longer just consumers of media, and no longer interested in being defined by what they are not. And so they have begun to tell their own stories. Several Muslim professionals are taking ownership of their own narrative. They are enriching traditional media outlets with their participation, perspectives and prowess, as well as creating platforms to hear, share and amplify their voices on issues that matter to all Canadians.

PRINT MEDIA JOURNALISTS Ten years ago, there were barely a handful of Muslim Canadian mainstream journalists.

Haroon Siddiqui, who officially retired after a stellar career with the Toronto Star lasting from 1978 to 2015, was the only notable Muslim journalist in print media for over two decades. Since the early 1990s, Toronto-based Naheed Mustafa, another pioneering journalist and award-winning writer and broadcaster, has been covering war and conflict and their long-term impacts on communities for many years. She has been reporting from and about Afghanistan since 2008 for CBC Radio, CBC Television, the Toronto Star and other media outlets. Noor Javed is one of the prominent and longest serving hijab-wearing mainstream media reporters in Canada. Since 2007, this full-time journalist with the Toronto Star has been consistently reporting on local stories and spotlighting the lived experiences of Muslim Canadians. Visibly comfortable with their Muslim identity, these award-winning professional journalists have been inspiring a new generation of writers and journalists for the past decade. Shanifa Nasser, an outstanding young investigative journalist with the CBC since 2015, writes stories on national security, immigration and the country’s justice system. Her award-winning work has led to two investigations by CBC’s The Fifth Estate.


One area that has witnessed a significant diversity of voices is opinion journalism. Starting in early 2000, inventor, writer and TedX speaker Dr. Sheema Khan has been writing monthly op-eds in The Globe and Mail. Among the many articulate young Muslim professionals who have added their voices to the ongoing discussions in the Canadian mainstream media is Amira Elghawaby. An Ottawa-based human rights advocate and freelance columnist for the Toronto Star, this trailblazing professional was the first hijab-clad reporter in Canada. Launching her career as a reporter with the CBC and the Toronto Star in 2001, Amira continues to enrich national debates through her op-eds and commentary. Shireen Ahmed, a hijab-wearing sports journalist, has busted many stereotypes about her faith, gender and race in this White, maledominated world. A writer, public speaker and award-winning sports activist focusing on Muslimahs in sports and the intersections of racism and misogyny in the field, her work has been featured and discussed in, among others, Sports Illustrated, espnW, The Guardian, Huffington Post, Vice Sports, Rewire, The National Post, the Globe and Mail, CBC and Today’s Parent.

TV AND RADIO ANCHORS AND REPORTERS Muslims are most needed on TV and radio, for these represent the largest share of mass media consumption. Like other racialized minorities, they want to see themselves represented on camera and on microphone. Momin Qureshi, one of the earliest Muslim reporters in broadcast media, has been reporting and

producing at Toronto’s 680 news radio station since 2005. He also frequently emcees at community and charitable events. Ginella Massa, an Afro-Latina Muslimah reporter and anchor for Toronto’s CityNews, became the country’s first hijab-wearing television reporter (2015) and news anchor when she anchored the CityNews’ 11 p.m. newscast on Nov. 17, 2016. Montreal-born Fariha Naqvi-Mohamed, Quebec’s first hijabwearing journalist, made history on Quebec television as a video journalist for CityNews Montreal. She also writes a weekly op-ed column for the Montreal Gazette. Other notable TV news reporters are Faiza Amin (City TV), Kamil Karamali (Global News) and Omar Sachedina (CTV).

Similarly, the Muslim Link, originally a print magazine in Ottawa that evolved into an online magazine and Muslim directory, has been publishing original news stories and presenting prominent Muslim Canadians and institutions to the general public. has also been highlighting positive stories involving Muslim Canadians and their interfaith community partners. On the religious programming side, ever since 2001 the “Let the Quran Speak” show has been producing quality talk shows by Dr. Shabir Ally and other Muslim leaders, influencers and imams to share Islamic teachings as well as Muslim Canadians’ lived experiences. In addition, countless ethnic newspapers and TV and radio shows continue to serve their OVER THE LAST DECADE OR SO, MANY MUSLIM respective communities. However, since the majority of these CANADIANS HAVE REALIZED THAT PLAYING initiatives are volunteer-run, their frequency and reach remain limited. Thus there has been VICTIM IS NOT THE ANSWER. THEY ARE NO a growing demand for a large-scale mainstream LONGER JUST CONSUMERS OF MEDIA, AND NO Muslim media that is accessible and consumed by 1.2 million Muslim Canadians and Canadians LONGER INTERESTED IN BEING DEFINED BY at large on a daily basis. WHAT THEY ARE NOT. Considering the dire need for a genuine, mainstream Muslim channel and the opportunity MEDIA TRAINING AND CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS presented by the pandemic lockdown, in April 2020 Sound Vision One sign of a community’s maturity is capacity building and announced a soft launch of Muslim Network TV. Through it, we leadership development institutions. Over the past decade, will discover North American Muslims’ lives, voices, aspirations organizations like DawaNet, Sound Vision and the National and struggles to be first-class citizens and faithful believers. Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) have been offering Hopefully, this first-of-its-kind initiative will be a stepping-stone media spokesperson workshops to community leaders, activists toward community development and empowerment by finally providing the missing communication platform. and imams. Sound Vision’s hands-on, intensive media and crisis The English-language Muslim Network TV, which airs communications training tours major cities nationwide to equip on Satellite Galaxy 19, covers the U.S., Canada and Mexico mosque leaders and local communities with the tools to engage and reaches 50 million people. Currently, it’s also on www. media both comfortably and professionally. Such mainstream, Amazon Fire TV and ROKU; soon it will professionals as Amira Elghawaby, Naheed Musatafa, Shenaz be on Apple TV, with a total of 120 million potential viewers. Kermalli, and Haroon Siddiqui serve as instructors. A variety of original talk shows, as well as educational and An interesting phenomenon that Toronto’s Muslim community entertainment programs, are being developed and will feature has experienced since the 2017 Quebec Mosque shooting is the Muslim and non-Muslim Canadian experts and professionals. establishment of a public relations and a crisis communications While Muslim Canadians have witnessed a significant consultancy service. increase in media literacy and second-generation Muslims in the In particular, labor union leader Mohammed Hashim has mainstream media, much more remains to be done to support, emerged as the community’s unofficial crisis communications sustain and grow its media footprint. Significant milestones manager. He has helped Muslim families, businesses and imams that need to celebrated are the first hijab-wearing writer at a cope with Islamophobia while facing personal tragedy or negative national newspaper, a Muslim sports journalist, Muslimah news media attention. He leverages his public relations muscles to anchors, the emergence of a Muslim crisis manager and the first help impacted individuals craft their messages and navigate mainstream Muslim channel. But to make this vision a reality, more of us have to tell their media crises. own stories our own way. More parents will have to encourage children to explore media arts and journalism as viable careers. THE MEDIA Having a Muslim media has been a dream of many Muslim More imams and community leaders will have to be trained Canadians since 9/11 unleashed an unending vicious cycle of professionally in media relations and crisis communications. war, terrorism and Islamophobia. Everyone but Muslims have More Islamic organizations will need to engage and hire been talking about Islam and Muslims, and yet there still is professional public relations and strategic communication no national Muslim newspaper, radio channel or TV channel. experts and agencies. And all of them will have to invest in DawaNet’s, launched in 2001, continues Muslim media outlets to center genuine Muslim voices and set to do a great job of compiling and curating community news and a narrative that reflects our community’s lived experiences.  ih content. It has also served as a citywide online hub for Muslim Taha Ghayyur, vice president at Sound Vision, is a nonprofit leader, writer, public speaker and host on Muslim Network TV. events and directories. SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2020  ISLAMIC HORIZONS   27


Ottawa Muslims Combat Covid-19 Observing health restrictions during an epidemic is an Islamic tradition BY ZULF M. KHALFAN


rophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) advised Muslims residing in an epidemic-affected area to stay there and for outsiders not to enter it. Today, we call this “quarantine” or “isolation.” When the WHO declared the Covid19 a pandemic and national public health advisories were announced, the Muslims of Ottawa’s National Capital Region (NCR) immediately complied with the citywide guidelines. Working in unison through the United Muslim Organizations-Ottawa Gatineau (UMO-OG) — a coalition of the city’s 13 mosques, centers and charities — all taraweeh, jumah and the five daily prayers were swiftly suspended, as well as evening family and community programs. All mosques and centers in Ottawa and Gatineau (Quebec) were closed. UMO-OG, Islamic Relief Canada, Human Concern International (HCI) and other organizations formed a Muslim task force to support the citywide relief effort. UMO-OG is committed to helping anyone who needs assistance, and its relief and support services are available to people belonging to all communities, cultures and faiths. ■  The Ottawa Muslim Association (OMA). As news of the virus was breaking, the executive board of the city’s oldest mosque, OMA’s The Ottawa Mosque, alerted members who had symptoms to stay away, posted public health advisories at entrances and on screens and placed sanitizers throughout the mosque. It shut down its three schools, and the new imam Dr. Muhammad Sulaiman gave spiritual guidance on how members were to conduct themselves. UMO-OG distributed over 200 hygiene packages — containing hand sanitizers, hand soap, tissue paper, shower gel, toothpaste and brushes — and prepared and distributed 500 food packages, said OMA president Ahmed Ibrahim. A team of volunteers phoned seniors needing help at home and those who were self-quarantined. They also went door-to-door to the mosque’s neighbors, leaving a note with the mosque’s contact number and information, asking them to call if they needed help picking up groceries or prescriptions.

Ottawa-Centre Ontario New Democratic Party’s provincial MP Joel Harden moderated the “gathering.” “The whole session was about prayers in a time of calamity, and faith groups getting together to help and support [each other],” said Ibrahim. In a recorded phone message to members, Imam Sulaiman checked on how they were coping. OMA has been livestreaming its Friday khutba and prayer. ■  Jami Omar: Jamiatul Muslemeen of Ottawa-Carleton (JMO). Through UMOWORKING IN UNISON OG, JMO compiled a list of people’s needs and sent volunteers into different areas. It THROUGH THE UNITED has continued to help anyone in need with MUSLIM ORGANIZATIONSsafety measures in place. Along with providing forms to the ill, OTTAWA GATINEAU (UMO-OG) self-quarantined and/or senior citizens — A COALITION OF THE CITY’S who cannot go out to purchase household 13 MOSQUES, CENTERS AND essentials or cooked food, volunteers delivCHARITIES — ALL TARAWEEH, ered groceries and non-perishables, ran errands and picked up prescriptions or JUMAH AND THE FIVE DAILY other essential supplies. JMO even offered to buy and deliver supplies if the applicant PRAYERS WERE SWIFTLY could pay through his/her bank. SUSPENDED, AS WELL Volunteers were directed to place items at the door, phone the individual, drive off AS EVENING FAMILY AND as soon as the package was picked up, wear COMMUNITY PROGRAMS. gloves and avoid all physical interaction with those they were serving. OMA donated C$6,000 to the city’s As the pandemic broke out and the city Parkdale Food Centre (PFC), states Ibrahim, went into lockdown, the mosque offered to to help meet the increasing demand. The provide cooked meals to any homebound or amount covered the association-sponsored quarantined person who requested this serweekly dinner for the whole year. vice. JMO assigned registered counselors to In Toronto and Ottawa, PFC seeks to speak over the phone with those dealing with build healthier, connected neighbors and mental health issues or who “just wanted to neighborhoods through food and innovative talk” with someone. community partnerships and by challenging Imam Owais Tilly engaged his community inequalities. Its 2018 annual report reports in virtual lectures through Group WhatsApp that it provided groceries to 2,128 individuals and YouTube. One lecture provided seven tools and 1,075 households. for dealing with Covid-19. A series of lectures OMA opened the mosque’s Hall of Peace dealt with elevating the light of faith during doors to act as a satellite distribution center these challenging times. As this pandemic is for the Sadaqa Food Bank. unique and very serious, the mosque asked Its interfaith outreach to the Parkdale everyone to pray for the well-being of humanity. United Church (PUC) for joint commuOn July 7, JMO president Imam Anver nity support activities led to holding a vir- Malam posted this note on the mosque’s webtual joint interfaith prayer group. Prayer site when a fajr prayer attendee announced he leaders included Imam Sulaiman, Rabbi had tested positive: “Given the nature of this Elizabeth Bolton (Or Haneshamah-Ottawa’s virus, it is not surprising. We all are at risk Reconstructionist Community), Rev. Dr. if the recommended rules are not followed. Anthony Bailey (PUC) and Elder Claudette Thus,” he added, “we have decided to shut Commanda, an Algonquin Anishinabe from down Jami Omar effective immediately until the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation. further notice.”


JMO then reviewed the attendee list and notified the Ottawa City public health authority of the steps it was taking. The authority relayed its satisfaction with the measures taken. ■  South Nepean Muslim Community (SNMC). Imam Zijad Delic called the community’s senior members to inquire about their health and to ask if they needed any help. He counseled families experiencing domestic tensions, including any contemplating divorce, due to marital stress. He even paid a personal visit, while observing social distancing, to a concerned member’s home. ■  Centre Islamique de l’Outaouais (CIO): Outaouais Islamic Center. Across the Ottawa River, on NCR’s Quebec side, Imam Ahmed Limame of CIO (the Gatineau Mosque) participated in the joint UMO-OG community drive. He recorded and circulated video lectures on the CIO’s website, inviting the audience to reflect on dealing with virus-related anxieties and guiding them spiritually toward tranquility and being pragmatic in adhering to the required public health protocols. ■  The Islam Care Center. The center took part in home delivering food baskets and distributing zakat to the deserving. Its Muslim Family Services of Ottawa (MFSO) wing offered counseling services, said chairman Qamar Masood. ■  At the Mosque of Mercy, Imam Ismail Albatnuni presented evening study circles on YouTube. Shaykh Munir Shalghum continued virtual tafseer (Quranic commentary) classes on Zoom. ■  Kanata Muslim Association (KMA). KMA closed its prayer space and suspended all “in-person activities” indefinitely. In coordination with UMO-OG, those needing food or other help were invited to contact its staff. Imam Sikander Hashemi and his volunteers made audio or video calls via phone, Zoom, Skype, Facetime or WhatsApp to help members through this challenging period. ■  Other NCR mosques, organizations, and charities: Masjid Bilal, the Ottawa Muslim Women’s Organization, the Islamic Society of Gloucester, and HCI have all taken similar measures. For those who still want to go to the mosque, the public health authorities’ guidelines have been somewhat of an impediment. Many regular attendees felt spiritually uneasy, for they can no longer go to the prayer hall for meditation and inner comfort. After all, Sulaiman said, the mosque is the environment in which our faith grows. Everyone has done their best to adjust to the online offerings. When the Ontario government began its phased easing of restrictions, the mosques resumed controlled attendance at congregational prayers. At OMA and SNMC, for example, 30% of the congregation is allowed in the prayer halls. At OMA, attendees have to pre-register online, while at SNMC they have to write their names on a sheet so volunteers could keep count. Obviously, as contact tracing has become an important protocol, both requirements would now be useful as a contact list, if it should be required, as was the case at Jami Omar. Both mosques are serving more than one congregation so more members can attend. Traditionally, the community gathers in the mosque for the five daily prayers. The pandemic has made those who run the mosques devise creative adjustments in managing attendance. Most importantly, they have taken the required measures in stride as mosque goers started trickling back in — congregants are to arrive about 15 minutes before the regular prayer time, make ablution at home, bring their own prayer mat, use hand sanitizer as they enter, wear a facemask and observe social distancing. They are told to enter through one door and to leave immediately after the prayer via a one-way exit. Overall, community members have been following the public health safety guidelines just as they would follow any traditional requirement advised by the Prophet.  ih Zulf M. Khalfan, a former Islamic Horizons editor, is a writer living in Nepean, Ontario, Canada.


The Muslim Link: Running the Online Hub for Canadian Muslims An originally print-based local Muslim newspaper continues to expand and evolve BY CHELBY MARIE DAIGLE


he difficult climate of post-9/11 Canada required a forum in which Muslim voices could speak out and be heard. At that time, Ottawa’s Muslims were facing heightened scrutiny and fear; however, there was also a growing amount of political advocacy as the community rallied to demand the return of Syrian-Canadian engineer Mahar Arar, who had been detained by the U.S. during a layover at John F. Kennedy International Airport in September 2002 and deported not to Canada, but rendered to Syria, where he faced torture under allegations of terrorism. Years later, the Canadian govern  Chelby Daigle (center) receives an ment would apologize. award for her work with Muslim In September 2002, the Link from MuslimFest flanked by Muslim Link (https://musTariq Syed from Muslim Fest (left) began operating and Mohammad Dourou, publisher as a newsletter intended to Muslim Link (right) create such an outlet. In its first year, a small team compiled, published and distributed seven issues on a variety of subjects. Each issue had a distribution of 4,000 copies and covered jumah locations and Islamic schools in the National Capital Region (NCR; Ottawa in Ontario and Gatineau in Quebec). One year later, it made history by becoming the region’s first Muslim English-language newspaper. Syrian-Canadian Mohammad Dourou, the current publisher, started out by helping with its distribution. When it looked like the newspaper would have to close for financial reasons, he took over as its publisher, ensured its continuation and designed its website, which offered an online directory and events listings. My journey with the Muslim Link started in 2012, when I was asked to share a job posting for an administrative assistant to help run the newspaper while Dourou was working abroad. I had developed a reputation as being someone who was good at sharing opportunities through my social network. I shared this one, but something about it spoke to me: I wanted to apply for the position. I was already primarily engaged in working with racialized and newcomer communities and issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion. Not only I was pretty busy, but I had just learned of the impoverished conditions in which my Nigerian father was living and was planning to visit him for the first time. I wanted to start helping him, so having some extra cash seemed like a good idea. Little did I know that this decision would change the Muslim Link’s fate.

ISLAM IN CANADA I applied, and Dourou hired me to help him run the newspaper, as he had to work in Dubai for a couple of years. My role was simple: help supervise the paper’s compilation, ensure that it went to print on time, oversee its distribution and collect payment from advertisers. At the time I came to work there, it had an irregularly updated website. I soon realized that this website had a lot of potential to share important information with the wider community.

store and saw the recent issue on the checkout counter. When she said that her friend worked at the Muslim Link, he replied, “I never thought they would write about us. I am so happy they finally did.” By “us” he meant members of his community. This saddened me, as it made me understand that not all of Ottawa’s Muslims felt that the local community paper was really for them. However, it also inspired me to develop the newspaper’s diversity, equity and inclusion

OVER THE YEARS, WE HAVE ADDED ONLINE DIRECTORIES AND EVENTS LISTINGS FOR OVER 14 CITIES NATIONWIDE, FROM HALIFAX TO VANCOUVER. NOW, ALL CANADIANS WHO WANT TO HAVE A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT CANADA’S MUSLIMS ARE DOING CAN VISIT OUR WEBSITE. As a convert myself, I was often frustrated by how difficult it seemed to be to access information about events, classes, job postings and other opportunities if you didn’t know the “right” Muslims. Viewing this as a real barrier to equity within Ottawa’s Muslim community, I made an effort to share whatever information came my way. I also realized that learning how to post information on the website would give me an even better way of sharing such information. So although it wasn’t part of my job description, I asked to be trained to perform this task. As a result, I soon developed its events listings and directory, which dramatically increased the newspaper’s readership. In fact, it would be accurate to say that this initiative changed the Muslim Link’s direction. I also spotted some serious equity issues. For example, we could interview non-hijab-wearing Muslimahs but not publish their photos. Considering this unfair, I suggested that their photos should be published as long as they were dressed modestly — it was soon accepted. Another issue was the newspaper’s acceptance of Twelver Shia business ads but the relative lack of stories about this community. When their local Islamic school was ranked second in the city during the annual roundup of Ontario elementary schools, I decided to write about it. A local imam who was trusted by the team helped me overcome some unexpected resistance and write what turned out to be a quite popular story. After its publication, one of my friends went to a local Twelver Shia-owned halal meat

policy to ensure that we would strive harder to reflect the actual demographics of all self-identified Muslims in Ottawa-Gatineau. By 2014, my role had evolved from being an assistant to being the editor in chief. This was difficult, because although I realized my changes, particularly in terms of the website and content, were helping to increase the readership, I knew that I was entering some uncertain territory by trying to make it more inclusive. In early 2014, I met someone who would help build my confidence in my leadership role — Tayyibah Taylor, founder and editor in chief of Azizah Magazine for Muslim Women. While she was in Ottawa for several U.S. Embassy-commissioned events, we discussed the challenges I faced in trying to make the Muslim Link more inclusive. Having faced similar challenges at Azizah, she stated that “If you worked to help readers understand that your commitment is to tell uplifting stories about Muslims, including Muslims like themselves, then they often become more accepting of diversity than we realize.” This advice gave me the confidence I needed to continue making the Muslim Link a welcoming space for all Muslims. I am forever grateful for this chance to have a quality discussion with her; she passed away later that year. In October 2014, it became clear that the Muslim Link would be financially viable only if we made it an exclusively online publication. Fortunately, the work I had done over the years to build up its online content resulted in a smooth transition. I realized that being


online meant that we could now cater to the needs of our growing Toronto-Mississauga and Montreal readership as well. At this point, Dourou and I began an exciting period of innovative website design to cater to a wider national readership. I started developing online directories and events listings for the Greater Toronto Area and Montreal. Learning that there was no single place where one could easily access regularly updated information about Muslim organizations and activities in those cities, I again used my instincts as a “community outsider” to make navigating Muslim spaces easier through our site. Thus, the newspaper went from being Ottawa’s community newspaper to being the Online Hub for Muslims nationwide. Over the years, we have added online directories and events listings for over 14 cities nationwide, from Halifax to Vancouver. Now, all Canadians who want to have a better understanding of what Canada’s Muslims are doing can visit our website. During this years-long process, I have learned so much about Canada. Local Muslim communities often reflect the dynamics of the cities in which they settled. In the Prairie provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, the Mennonites, a Christian minority community that settled here during the 19th and 20th centuries, play a major role in settlement and social service agencies and have built an interesting relationship with the region’s Muslim organizations. In fact, their organizations often have a longer history of sponsoring Muslim refugees through partnerships between mosques and churches than we see in Ontario. While working with the Muslim Link, I have interviewed Muslims who were sponsored by mosques in Saskatchewan during the 1990s, whereas many mosques in Ontario and Quebec only recently began sponsoring Syrian refugees with federal government encouragement. I hope to share more such stories to help foster closer ties among the provinces’ Muslim communities. The Muslim Link has recently been accepted into the Indie News Challenge, a competitive program for journalist-entrepreneurs seeking support to make their projects more sustainable from a business perspective. I’m excited to see what we can learn from other community news sites that are trying to deliver independent news to more diverse audiences. I’m also looking forward to developing more skills to help ensure that the Muslim Link celebrates its 20th anniversary in September 2022, insha’ Allah.  ih Chelby Marie Daigle, a Muslim Black mental health advocate and Ottawa native, is editor in chief of the Muslim Link.

Muslim Canadians: A Question of Identity Remaining Muslim in a largely secular country BY AHMAD F. YOUSIF


he approximately one-third of the world’s Muslims who live as religious minorities often face certain difficulties in terms of their distinctive lifestyle and maintaining their religious identity. As Islam has no geographical boundaries, Muslims of many ethnicities, languages and cultures immigrated to Canada when restrictions on non-Europeans were lifted during the 1960s. In almost every city, one encounters Muslims and Islamic centers, associations, educational institutions and mosques. For example, in the Canadian National Capital Region — the official federal designation for the Canadian capital of Ottawa (Ontario), the neighboring city of Gatineau (Quebec) and the surrounding urban and rural communities — Islamically dressed Muslimahs have been visible, particularly since the late 1980s. Muslims built al-Rashid, the first purpose-built mosque, in Edmonton, Alberta, in 1938. Although most Muslims are among the newest immigrants, Islam has a long history in what European settler colonists called the “New World.” According to University of Alberta sociologist Baha Abu-Laban, who has researched the country’s Muslim demography, “the earliest record of Muslim presence in Canada dates back to 1871, when the Canadian census recorded 13 Muslim residents” (Zohra Husaini, Foreword, “Muslims

in the Canadian Mosaic,” 1990). During the last few decades, the Muslim population has increased tremendously, largely due to the political and economic unrest in many of their homelands. The country’s approximately 2 million Muslims (3.2% of the population) represent religious sects, ethnicities and languages. The large majority are immigrants or their descendants. One-third of them live in Ontario,


and the absolute majority of them live in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Muslim immigrants often find themselves deprived of a social structure that encourages the practice of Islam and helps them maintain their identity, for religion constitutes only a fraction of Canadians’ lives. Given that the transition is often difficult, how has this small minority coped with the enormous psychosocial challenges and maintained its identity in a largely secular but historically Christian-majority country? Preserving one’s religious belief is central to maintaining a Muslim’s identity. Given that the “five pillars” are an essential part of a Muslim’s belief, how much they are observed may indicate the level of Islamic identity, at least quantitatively. Canadian sociologist Hans Mol (“Identity and the Sacred,” 1976) states that “religion defines man and his place in the universe,” implying that one who abandons his/her religious practice or belief steps outside one’s boundaries and consequently loses his/her identity. Practicing Muslims sometimes consider Canadian society too permissive. In addition, social pressures often influence Muslims to stray from the religious boundaries that are crucial to their identity. Despite being aware of Islam’s strictures, some Muslim Canadians, just like their counterparts in Muslim-majority countries, do indulge. As pointed out in “Muslims in Canada: A Question of Identity” (2008), some Muslims indicated that they tolerate many of these forbidden behaviors. Accordingly, it’s difficult to understand how a Muslim can sustain his/her religious identity in such circumstances. Muslims have come to Canada mainly for five reasons: political alienation from their homelands, economic advantages, educational opportunities, the pull of family members and friends already there and the freedom of faith and expression guaranteed by law. Despite their initial motivation, the economic factor cannot be overlooked. Muslims have come seeking a better life. Regardless of where they live, their identity will always be challenged. Not all Muslims are tempted to stray, for some actually develop a stronger sense of identity. Those who wish to maintain their identity often face discrimination and racism, despite such legislation as the Canadian Bill of Rights. Others who try to adapt to their new society’s values and culture often find themselves trying to avoid


ISLAM IN CANADA standing out in any way. Personal discrimination, which has few boundaries and is frequently institutional in form, many times leads to an identity conflict. Canada, a primarily secular nation, developed its policies and structures within that framework. Daood Hamdani (d. 2019), who worked as an economist with the federal government and authored several articles on the country’s Muslim community, stated the main reason for institutional discrimination: “Canadian society was organized for a Christian community, which leaves it unequipped to deal with Islamic tradition.” And yet Canada has much to offer its Muslims and may even help them maintain their identity through the religious freedom that its Charter of Rights provides. The extent to which each individual feels the link with his/her religious identity depends upon the individual. For a committed Muslim, observing Islam’s ritual practices are the most significant element of his/her Islamic identity. Others believe that praying and reciting the Qur’an are the primary rituals that bring them closer to God. They are not just routines, but the means to achieve wholeness. Community rituals and gatherings are another mechanism for maintaining identity, for they allow Muslims to relate to each other by reenacting the same ritual and thus sharing something that is uniquely theirs. Accordingly, such rituals strengthen their identity as a distinct group. Commitment to religious belief is one of the strongest elements that helps preserves an Islamic identity. Generally, Muslims have a strong emotional attachment to their religion and thus attempt to stay true to it in body, mind and spirit. Rather than implying “perfect” adherence, this implies that strong commitment creates a strong consistency between belief and practice, as well as a resultant strengthening of one’s identity. Weak commitment and religious belief often alienate one from his/her identity. On the personal level, a committed Muslim keeps his/ her links with Islamic practice by observing Islam’s rules in all aspects of life. This type of commitment drives an individual’s behavior and keeps it relatively predictable. For instance, avoiding all types of alcohol because it is prohibited becomes a predictable element in one’s life and a source of stability. Sometimes, committed Muslims experience a conflict between Canada’s commitment to pluralism and their own sense of special identity. Therefore, the Muslim community acts as a central base where Islam’s values and norms come together. Committing to Islam’s social community reinforces a Muslim’s identification with his/her fundamental roots. Muslim immigrants find it hard to maintain the “ideal” Islamic identity, for this would require living in an “ideal” Islamic state. Nevertheless, a more “relative” type of Islamic identity can be achieved in the absence of a traditional Islamic state if the political situation allows for it. Such is the case in Canada, where the freedom of religion is a basic right and ethno-cultural plurality is promoted at the national level through the county’s official multicultural policy.  ih Ahmad F. Yousif, Ph.D., a lecturer at Sultan Sharif Ali Islamic University, Brunei Darussalam, is author of “Muslims in Canada: A Question of Identity” (2008).


Canada’s First Mosque: The Al Rashid Mosque It takes a mosque to build a community BY NOOR AL-HENEDY

New mosque


any important features, organizations and landmarks define northeast Edmonton, Alberta. Among the most impressive ones is the Al Rashid Mosque, Canada’s first mosque, which has served Muslims for 80+ years. In the early 20th century, mainly Arab/Lebanese Muslims flocked to northern Edmonton for its affordable housing and to be near the mosque. The economic boom of the 1970s and an inviting Canadian immigration policy resulted in a rapid Muslim population growth. The mosque’s visionaries thus purchased a larger lot. However, since most of the Muslims lived in northeastern or northwestern Edmonton, the land was sold and a three-acre lot was purchased for the new Canadian Islamic Center, which included a sizable Al Rashid Mosque. To understand the mosque’s influence on the community’s development, we consulted Richard A. Awid’s “Canada’s First Mosque: The Al Rashid” (2010). According to him, Muslims of Scottish origin arrived in 1867, followed by Arab Muslims. Many of them settled in Quebec and Ontario and became peddlers who made a living and learned English by selling to local farmers. Ali Tarrabain, one of Edmonton’s first Arab Muslims, came to Canada in 1901 and by 1906 had moved to northern Edmonton and opened a general store. Shortly thereafter, Ali Hamdon (1907), Ahmed Ali Awid (1928), Najeeb Aiiley (1936) and other Lebanese joined him. By 1938 the community elders, all of whom were proud of their Canadian identity, began thinking about how to maintain their Arabic culture for their descendants. Until then, they had been praying in each other’s homes. Their solution was Canada’s first mosque — Edmonton’s Al Rashid Mosque. In September 1938, the Arab Moslem Association (AMA) was incorporated and became the mosque-building project’s executive council in charge. Led by President Joe Teha, Treasurer Nejib Ailey (the mosque’s first religious leader-imam), Secretary Mohammed Assiff and executive

Original building

members Milton Saul, Lee Sheddy, pointing to the heavens and declarE.M.M. Hassann and Ali Hamdon, ing God’s oneness with the hand the council forged ahead, right in clutched together. the middle of the Great Depression. Another inspiration was a On Nov. 24, 1938, Ali Tarrabain famous painting of an old tree stump was the first Muslim to receive a on the shore of Lake Superior, done funeral service at the Al Rashid by the “Group of Seven” — famous Canadian artists. Mosque, even before it was completed. Mayor John W. Fry officially Haidar said that he hadn’t opened the mosque on Dec. 11, intended the school’s final appear1938, three weeks after Tarrabain’s ance to resemble the shape of funeral service. Makka’s Grand Mosque. In any case, The Al Rashid Mosque stood its majestic beauty and architectural proudly on 102 Street and 108 wonder has become a landmark in Avenue site from 1938-1946. In northeastern Edmonton. BY 1938 THE COMMUNITY 1946, the City of Edmonton and ELDERS, ALL OF WHOM WERE the Edmonton Public School THE EDMONTON MUSLIM Board, which wanted the site for CEMETERY PROUD OF THEIR CANADIAN an expanded Victoria Composite Under the leadership of Al Rashid IDENTITY, BEGAN THINKING High School, negotiated with AMA Mosque president Khalid Tarabain, to move it. On Nov. 5, 1946, the ABOUT HOW TO MAINTAIN THEIR the community started thinking mosque was moved to its new locaabout providing its own burial serARABIC CULTURE FOR THEIR tion at 102 Street and 111 Avenue. vices. He said that this project began DESCENDANTS. It would be moved once again in 1993 and continues even today, to accommodate the city’s growing as more graves are added when Muslim population. On Aug. 12, needed. They purchased 80 more 1980, the Canadian Islamic Center Believing that an Islamic education acres and developed additional (CIC), which included the mosque, opened program was needed, Mahmoud Ali plots. By 1995, The Islamic Funeral Society its doors at its new northeastern Edmonton Tarrabain, Mickey Jomha, Rony Jomha, was an operational and licensed facility. location on the auspicious day of Eid al-Fitr. Abdul Ghafoor Rana, Dr. Mohamed Shoush And so the CIC and the Al Rashid The original building, now recognized and Dr. Mohammed Qasqas (the first prin- Mosque finally completed its vision of as a heritage structure, was moved to Fort cipal) and other local elders opened the providing a mosque, an educational instiEdmonton Park and officially opened on Edmonton Islamic School Society (EISS) tution and funeral and burial services for May 28, 1992, thanks to the efforts of Dr. in the new center’s basement in 1987. the city’s Muslims. The early pioneers have Lila Fahlman and the Canadian Council of A decade later, the K-9 classes had 170 gifted generations of all Edmontonians with Muslim Women (Edmonton Chapter). students. a remarkable legacy. In 2002, a 12.7-acre lot was purchased More importantly, the city’s many young THE EDMONTON ISLAMIC ACADEMY to meet the demand for spaces, In 2006, the Muslim scholars have offered their medIn 1988 the newly formed Edmonton Islamic Edmonton Islamic Academy (EIA), a state- ical, legal, education, engineering, archiSchool Society, housed at the Canadian of-the-art facility in all aspects, opened its tectural, artistic, political, business, philIslamic Center and Al Rashid Mosque, doors as Canada’s largest Islamic school. anthropic and many other skills to their opened its first kindergarten class in the Today, it serves 1,400+ K-12 students; an fellow Edmontonians. Many of them are basement. From this humble beginning additional 200+ are on the waiting list. based in northeastern Edmonton, where came the state-of-the-art educational facility The school hall hosts the Friday con- they have indeed shaped a community and located at 127 Street and 145 Avenue. gregational prayers. It’s open to the public affirm the belief that it “takes a mosque to Under the leadership of Dr. Fahlman, during the evenings and on weekends, and build a community.” Soraya Zaki Hafez and others, the commu- its gymnasium and hall are in high demand. To learn more about the remarkable nity lobbied the Edmonton Public School In 2003, Dr. Gulzar Haider (dean of chapter of Canada’s Muslim community, Board (EPSB) for an Arabic-language pro- architecture, Carlton University, Ottawa) please consult Awid, R., Dhaibi, J, Jimale, gram so their children could learn to read was hired to create EIA’s design, an mas- M., & Jorf. J. 2012. “The Edmonton Islamic the Quran in its original language. EPSB terpiece that comingles Islam’s architectural Academy from Concept to Reality”; Awid, R., saw this as an opportunity to celebrate heritage with Canada’s geographical land- Husaini Z., & Tarabain, K. 1999. “Muslims in Canada”; Tierney, S. 2009. Constitution Canada’s multicultural policy within its scape — notably, an iceberg. programs. As a result, in 1982 Edmonton This particular “iceberg’s” features Referendums. The Modern Law Review, became the country’s first city to offer combine the shape of a minaret with that 72(3), 360-383; and Waugh, E. H. 2018. “Al such a program. Today, these programs of an iceberg, as one can see by looking at Rashid Mosque.”  ih are offered at six locations, five of them the minaret atop the EIA building. It also Noor Al-Henedy is communications director of Canadian in northeastern Edmonton. symbolizes the right hand’s pointer finger Islamic Centre, Al Rashid Mosque. SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2020  ISLAMIC HORIZONS   33


Muslim Torontonians Forge a Canadian Muslim Identity A very self-confident community engages with mainstream society on all levels BY MUNEEB NASIR


oronto’s Muslim community has been a leader in North America when it comes to forging an integrated Muslim identity. Muslim Torontonians are proudly proclaiming their Canadian and Muslim identities and working for integration into the Canadian landscape. For the past two decades, numerous organizations have been formed and become prominent. For example, the Greater Toronto Area has one of the continent’s largest concentrations of Muslims and has always been a leader in community development — the first Islamic Housing Cooperative (est. 1981) was started here, as was the first Islamic private school: Mississauga’s ISNA Elementary School (est. 1983). Canada’s 37 million people form one of the world’s most ethnically diverse and multicultural societies, which is reflected among its Muslims, especially in the Greater Toronto Area — 8% of its population is Muslim. The estimated 1.5 million Muslim Canadians comprise 3.2% of the population and, with a median age of 28.1 years, represent the country’s youngest generation. While numbering only in the hundreds at the end of World War II, the lifting of immigration restrictions on non-Europeans during the 1960s brought in so many Muslims that they are now the second-largest religious group. Mosque construction kept pace with the community’s

Halal Food Festival

growth. During the 1980s, Muslim Torontonians established the continent’s first Islamic school, which became a model for establishing Islamic schools across North America, and the Islamic Housing Cooperative, which helps families purchase interest-free homes and has become the model for other home financing institutions worldwide.

INTEGRATION INTO SOCIETY Since the turn of the 21st century, Toronto’s dynamic Muslim community has spawned

homegrown organizations committed to Muslim participation and integration into mainstream society. According to the 2016 Environics Institute survey (see Neuman, pp. 38-39), a majority of Muslim Canadians prefer this effort, a preference that has strengthened over time. Muslim Canadians are among the most enthusiastic group of Canadians – 83% feel very proud to be Canadian, as compared to 73% of their non-Muslim co-citizens. One manifestation of these realities is their high level of



participation in elections. In the federal election of 2015, the Muslim voter turnout was an exceptional 79% and remained high in subsequent elections. Clearly, they are embracing the country’s diversity, democracy and freedoms. The Canadian-Muslim Vote (TCMV;, launched in 2015, is one Toronto-based organization that stands out in terms of mobilizing community members to exercise their democratic rights. A non-partisan civic education organization, TCMV’s mandate is to educate and mobilize Canada’s estimated 767,000+ Muslim voters at all levels of government. Its awareness campaigns, such as the Get Out the Vote sermons, have significantly increased Muslim participation in the electoral process and the number of Muslims being elected to the federal and provincial legislatures. Its success in this regard was on display during the summer of 2019, months before the federal election, when 75 elected officials from all three levels of government, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and 1,000 other people showed up at the organization’s gala dinner. Political parties are keenly aware that the country 23 ridings (electoral districts) have Muslim populations of 10% or more, and that many of the Greater Toronto Area’s swing ridings could determine an election’s outcome.

DIVERSITY: A STRENGTH According to the Environics Institute survey, Canadian Muslims agree that immigrants should adapt to Canada, attain linguistic fluency, tolerate and respect different cultures, appreciate Canadian history and respect the law. They place a strong value on diversity and connection among cultures. Several Toronto-based organizations have been outstanding

for their unique emphasis on connecting Muslims across the community’s various ethnic and ideological divides, as well as with other cultures. One such organization, the Reviving the Islamic Spirit Convention (, has emerged as a major platform for leading Muslim personalities from around the world to address one of the largest assemblies of Muslims in North America. This event, launched in 2001 by Toronto Muslim youths to tackle the post-9/11 backlash and to build a bridge of understanding with non-Muslims, has become a staple in Toronto’s downtown core during the Christmas holiday season. Over 20,000 domestic and international visitors attend this event every year. According to the organizers, the youth envisage this convention as an attempt to help overcome the challenges of communication and integration and promote stronger ties within North American society. In addition, Toronto is home to two significant Muslim festivals in North America. Festivals are essential to celebrating one’s culture and heritage and to strengthening relations in diverse societies. Launched in 2004, the three-day MuslimFest (http://, considered the continent’s largest Muslim festival of its kind, attracts over 30,000 attendees annually and celebrates the best in Muslim arts and entertainment with live performances, art and cultural exhibits, children’s activities and a bustling bazaar. This unique cultural fusion, which combines faith traditions and Canadian culture, attracts people from all backgrounds and has received the Best Social Media Campaign and Best Greening of Festival awards, along with many other local and national awards. Muslim Torontonians also

host the two-day Halal Food Fest (http://halalfoodfestto. com), North America’s largest halal food festival, which attracts over 35,000 visitors from across the continent. It features more than 150 exhibitors — halal restaurants, bakeries, manufacturers, specialty stores and artisan vendors — who showcase a diverse and global range of flavors as well as a shopping bazaar, cooking demonstrations, stand-up comedy performances, children’s storytelling and a meetand-greet with famous bloggers. This festival shares a glimpse of Toronto’s multicultural Muslim community while providing insight into the food industry.

appear to be strengthening as their lives evolve. This confidence has led Muslim Torontonians to pioneer services and engage in social justice issues and campaigns that are leading the way for North American Muslims. Three groups stand out for their unique emphasis on serving the differently abled, providing mental health support and engaging in environmental advocacy. Naseeha (https://, a mental health hotline that answers calls from around the world from anyone who is going through life’s challenges, provides a safe zone for talking and helps them get the help they need. It also provides

Muslim Festival

These major events, part of North American Muslims’ yearly social calendar, are just a snapshot of Toronto’s dynamic community, a community that is totally confident in terms of its religious identity.

CONFIDENCE IN IDENTITY The Environics Institute survey also showed that being Muslim is a very important part of identity for Canadian Muslims and that this feeling of religious identity is comparatively stronger than that of their non-Muslim peers. Canadians are among the world’s most secular people, whereas Muslims are one of the country’s most religiously observant groups. In fact, their religious identity and practices

workshops for youth across North America, holds web therapy sessions and offers texting mental health support. DEEN Support Services (, another outstanding group, is a charity founded by Muslims with disabilities to advance community inclusion by making available culturally and spiritually relevant services for families and individuals living with disabilities. It both serves all individuals with disabilities regardless of religion, language and culture, and offers drop-in and day-programs at the Muneeba Center, Canada’s first-of-its-kind facility. DEEN Support Services has been a leading voice in North America

on disability issues and hosts the Global Conference on Disability and Islam. Coming out of Toronto as well is, which has been the voice for the nation’s Muslim environmental movement. Its events and campaigns have earned it a global reach in terms of raising awareness of environmental issues through an Islamic lens, especially with its annual Green Khutba Campaign. Held on the Friday closest to Earth Day, many Muslim communities at home and abroad have adopted this campaign. A dynamic faith community is one that responds to the needs and issues affecting the larger society. Muslim Torontonians stepped forward during the Covid-19 pandemic and, working alongside others, started projects to meet the needs of their neighbors and support frontline workers. A group of young Muslims started the Good Neighbor Project (, which picks up and delivers groceries and essentials to the city’s most vulnerable, including seniors, those with health conditions or disabilities, single parents, people with Covid-19 and health care workers. Over 6,000 people offered their services, and public officials have publicly lauded their compassion, dedication and generosity. Muslim Torontonians are a growing part of the city’s diverse population that is embracing the country’s diversity, democracy and freedoms and forging a Canadian Muslim identity.  ih Muneeb Nasir is a community leader, writer and interfaith activist. In addition to being the founder and president of the Olive Tree Foundation (, an endowment foundation, he is co-chair of the National Muslim Christian Liaison Committee ( NMCLC), a national interfaith organization, managing editor of the online magazine and Canadian correspondent for



Muslim Canadians in the Coming Decade Can Muslims move beyond the mosque? BY KATHERINE BULLOCK


nhappy with the thought of being conscripted by the Ottomans to fight in Yemen, Bedouin Ferran moved from the Levant to Canada in 1907. In 1909 a Catholic priest renamed him “Peter Baker.” The Indigenous communities in the Northwest Territories, where he worked as an itinerant trader, nicknamed him the “Artic Arab” or, somewhat confusedly, the “Jew.” The local barber and hotel owner, where he often ate while in Fitzgerald, dubbed him the “Black Turk” for his curly black hair. An enterprising man, one of his claims to fame was keeping the fresh fruit that he sold from freezing. Another one was his 1964 election to the Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly. A Muslim Arab when there were few Muslims in Canada, we know little about his self-concept as a Muslim, except that his funeral was conducted in 1973 at the Al Rashid mosque in Edmonton — Canada’s first mosque. We also know him to be an enterprising and hardworking man who took the racism he faced in stride. When he traveled alone on his sled with his dogs, camping out amidst snow glistening on pine tree needles and the track ahead, a vast expanse of sky above, did he connect with his Creator? Many of us can identify with the feeling of being the lone Muslim in our city, school or workplace. Many of us know the struggle it

takes to reestablish oneself in a new country faced by cultural and language barriers; to smile and carry on in the face of racism, to pass on such qualities as faith, hard work, entrepreneurship and law-abidingness to the next generation. Since Baker’s arrival in 1907, Muslim Canadians have recognized the need to provide each other the support and mutual assistance commended by Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), who stated, clasping his fingers together, “Verily, the believers are like a structure, each



part strengthening the other” (“al-Bukhari,” hadith no. 467; “Muslim,” hadith no. 2585). Just like the Muslims who migrated to Madina, Canadian Muslims’ first step was to build a mosque to provide a space for daily and Friday prayers and to serve as its spiritual heartbeat. The mosque circulates the oxygen of connection to God through prayer, the vitamins and minerals that give the energy to work and contribute to families and the wider society, the sustenance to support teaching and educating children, the sinews to bind together in mutual assistance and the platelets that stop the wounds of racism. So what do we do when Muslims don’t come to the mosque? Is the lifeblood that circulates from it carrying toxins or unable to nourish those Muslims? A 2011 study by Dr. Ihsan Bagby, chair of ISNA U.S.’s Masjid Development Committee, found that many youth, women, converts, minority ethnicities and African-American Muslims feel unwelcome or uncomfortable in mosques. Subsequent research, including a well-known 2014 documentary “Unmosqued,” corroborates this. The U.S. trends are found in Canada as well. Many of these groups stop attending and either live Islam alone or try to establish their own communities. If we are responsible for all community members and for ensuring that everyone is flourishing, then we need to pay more attention to the unmosqued. Mosque-only solutions to community problems are necessary, but not enough. Social science studies have identified two clusters of long-term trends, which I call “changing patterns of authority” and “youth struggles.” As only a handful of Muslims are addressing these trends’ fallout strategically, we need to focus on understanding the issues and identifying solutions to these systemic, deeply rooted trends that both contribute to the unmosqued phenomenon and undermine mosque-centric efforts to address community needs.

CHANGING PATTERNS OF AUTHORITY Karim H. Karim’s 2009 study “Changing Perceptions of Islamic Authority among Muslims in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom” (

changing-perceptions-of-islamic-authority-among-muslims-in-canada-the-unitedstates-and-the-united-kingdom) looked at how Muslim communities are adapting to modernity as Western citizens and what role religious authority played in their adaptation. Focus group members, when asked about local imams, the scripture and Islamic norms such as the Sharia, cited various problems, among them imported imams who didn’t understand local conditions and many mosques not allowing critical discussions, skepticism and dissent. This latter reality had led many to seek their own answers. These trends are corroborated by the 2016 Environics survey of national Canadian Muslim opinion (see Keith Neuman, “The Muslim Experience in Canada,” pp. 38-39). Many celebrated that higher numbers of under 45s were attending a mosque for non-prayer purposes, but overlooked the 43% who said they attended for prayer once a month or less, only at special times or never [see Neuman, chart 3]. While 22% of interviewees turned to their “local mosque” as a source of guidance, as many as 42% said they look to “none” as a source of guidance. In the Canadian context, this is around 420,000 people. And 41% and 42% of interviewees, respectively, were not very satisfied with or unaware of youth or family programs.

Sources of guidance

Satisfaction with local community

In sum, local communities reach about one half of the Muslims through mosquebased programs. Obviously, more attractive mosque programs are needed, as well

as serious investment in non-mosque programs, perhaps also by non-mosque associations, if we want all Muslims to flourish, unite more deeply and allow more people to experience the guidance provided by the Quran and Sunna.

YOUTH STRUGGLES The Environics survey also highlighted some perhaps unrecognized youth struggles. In general, a sense of belonging to Canada was very strong for 55%, but only 45% among women and 41% for youth (aged 18-34). A full 78% of the Canadian born, and 54% of youth, cited discrimination as their local community’s most important issue, compared to 28% for those aged 45 and older. Moreover, 41% of youth and 50% of the Canadian born expect to face more discrimination in the future. Finally, 24% of youth felt inhibited about expressing their opinions due to race, ethnicity or religion; this figure was 32% among the Canadian born.

Next generation face

to have a positive sense of self? And if this is the case, then why are we living here? Why should we care about our city and ourselves? We must help our youth feel that they belong to Canada; to help them handle discrimination; and provide effective counseling, self-defense classes, self-esteem and empowerment. We need to teach and guide them on how to not give up, provide coping tools, address discrimination and bystander training. And if they are unmosqued, we need to find ways to reach them with these and other programs. These Environics charts cover a lot of information. While Muslims should be optimistic and feel reassured by the high number of those feeling proud of their Muslim and Canadian identities, as well as their connection to Canada and their sense of the future, we also have to ascertain the trouble spots when planning our institutions and their programs. Many non-mosque activists bemoan the amount of money spent on brick-and-mortar structures that stand empty for most of the day. I have pointed in this article to the longterm, systemic and deeply rooted difficulties many Muslims face. Such challenges undermine mosque-centric efforts to address community needs. Baker lived at a time when there were no mosques. If we say establishing a welcoming mosque with programs that cater to everyone, instead of to a select group, is a given, then let’s take our communities to the next level: fund and support organizations and programs that are non-mosque centered while working on the mosque. As a psychotherapist friend puts it, “Instead of calling them to us, let’s go to where they are.”  ih Katherine Bullock, Ph.D., is lecturer in Islamic politics at the University of Toronto.

Feel inhibited

Clearly, many youth feel despair, cast out and isolated from their communities; unsure of their connection to the place in which they live; and uncertain about their future and ability to be empowered, express themselves and live their lives to the fullest. All of these are connected to one’s self-esteem, a high level of which is essential for mental wellbeing. Wellbeing is, in turn, connected to one’s ability to function and do well as a contributing citizen. If a mosque preaches that “the West” is a toxic environment, that Canadians hate Muslims, that we are always victims of discrimination or of the “unbeliever,” can we expect a young person SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2020  ISLAMIC HORIZONS   37


The Muslim Experience in Canada Despite various challenges, a large majority of Muslim Canadians are proud of their national identity




ntil fairly recently, Muslims were just one of the many parts of Canada’s multicultural mosaic. The first recorded Muslim family arrived from Scotland in the early 1850s. Over the past two decades the Muslim population has grown dramatically, and by 2011 had passed the one million mark; Muslims now make up more than 3% of Canada’s population and represent one of the fastest growing religious groups. The Muslim community has been a poorly understood religious minority in Western countries and in the past two decades, in the wake of 9/11 and certain unfamiliar religious practices (e.g., Sharia, the niqab), their presence has become contentious. Canada has not experienced the ethnic violence and terrorist attacks as in other parts of the world, and by global standards, it is a welcoming multicultural society. But the Muslim community faces unique challenges with respect to religious freedom, acceptance by the broader society and national security profiling. In 2019, the Quebec government adopted legislation banning public workers in positions of “authority” from wearing religious symbols while they are on duty; a law, which effectively targets Muslim women who wear head and/or face coverings. Much of the problem stems from the fact that Muslims are not well understood by other Canadians, whose impressions are formed largely through simplistic stereotypes emphasizing

negative characteristics (violent extremism, honor killings). The result is a dominant narrative of Muslims as different from others and who resist the adoption of “Canadian values,” which makes them threatening and untrustworthy. What is it like to be a Muslim in Canada, and what is it like for other Canadians to have Muslims living in their communities? In surveys conducted in 2006 and 2016, the nonprofit Environics Institute for Survey Research, in partnership with Muslims and non-Muslim organizations, addressed these questions. The research looked at how Muslims experience life in this country and how other Canadians view them (for details, see project-details/survey-of-muslims-in-canada-2016).


How well do Muslims feel accepted in Canada today? Despite pervasive reporting of violence and terrorism abroad in the name of Islam, as well as stereotyping of religious and cultural practices in Canada, Muslims are more likely than not to feel their non-Muslim compatriots broadly accept their religion. A small majority believes that other Canadians have a generally positive impression of Islam and that relatively few non-Muslims are openly hostile to their community; this view has strengthened since 2006. In comparative terms, a large and growing majority of Muslim Canadians agrees that they are better treated than their


coreligionists in other Western countries (84%, versus only 2% who believe they are treated worse). In fact, most non-Muslim Canadians surveyed are more positive than negative in their general impression of Islam, although such opinions have not measurably improved over the past decade.


At the same time, discrimination and stereotyping continue to be a difficult reality for Muslim Canadians and is of particular concern to women and youth. One-third of Muslim Canadians have experienced discrimination in the past five years, due primarily to one’s religion or ethnicity. This is well above the levels of mistreatment experienced by the general population. Such negative experiences occur in a variety of settings, most commonly in the workplace, in public spaces, in retail establishments and in schools and universities. One in four Muslims has encountered difficulties crossing borders irrespective of gender, age and country of birth. Moreover, opinions about prospects for a better future are mixed, and it is Muslims under 35 who are the least optimistic.

How are religious identity and practice influenced by the Canadian context? Canada is among the most secular of countries, which can present challenges for immigrants with non-Western religious traditions. Muslims are among the country’s most religiously observant groups, and their religious identity and practices appear to be strengthening as their lives evolve in Canada. Being Muslim is a very important part of the identity for most Muslims, and comparatively stronger than for members of other major religious groups in Canada. Religious observance among Muslims has strengthened over the past decade. An increasing number are attending mosques for prayers on a regular basis (at least once a week) and (among women) are wearing the hijab. These trends are most noticeable among Muslims 18 to 34 years of age, in contrast with the broader trend in Canadian society where youth are turning away from organized religion.


Consistent with the importance placed on religious practice,

most Muslim Canadians support the right for individuals to pray in schools, and smaller majorities support the right for women to take the citizenship oath and/ or receive public services while wearing the niqab. Not all Muslims agree, however, and opposition to such rights is more evident among older Muslims. Non-Muslim Canadians are also more likely than not to support the right to prayer in schools and wearing the niqab in public, although opinions are more divided.

this sentiment has strengthened over the past decade, especially in Quebec. Strong religious identity notwithstanding, Muslims are as likely as others in this country to say their Canadian identity is very important. And they agree with other Canadians on what makes Canada a great country: its freedom and democracy, and its multicultural diversity. Their greatest dislike, not surprisingly, is the cold climate. Muslim Canadians increasingly express a strong sense of belonging to the country, and

a misconception: A majority of Muslims say their community wants to integrate into broader society rather than remain distinct, and this view has strengthened over time. And non-Muslims are increasingly coming to recognize this, as fewer now believe than a decade ago that Muslims in this country prefer not to integrate.


THE OVERALL PICTURE PAINTED BY THIS RESEARCH OFFERS A STARK CONTRAST WITH THE STEREOTYPED IMAGES THAT OFTEN FORM THE BASIS FOR BROADER PUBLIC OPINION. THE RESULTS PORTRAY A SMALL BUT GROWING PART OF THE COUNTRY’S DIVERSE POPULATION THAT IS EMBRACING CANADA’S DIVERSITY, DEMOCRACY AND FREEDOMS IN THE FACE OF CONTINUING CONTROVERSY AND MISTREATMENT. One area in which religious and cultural perspectives of Muslims differ from those of other Canadians pertains to family and sexuality. Muslims are noticeably more likely to value patriarchy (“the father must be the master in the home”) and to reject homosexuality. Second-generation Muslims are closer to the Canadian majority perspective (particularly in rejecting patriarchy), suggesting that Muslim values may move into closer alignment with the rest of the population over time. Do Muslims feel attached to Canada? As a population made up mostly of immigrants (many having arrived in the past decade), Muslims are among the most enthusiastic group of Canadian patriots. More than eight in ten are very proud to be Canadian (more so than their non-Muslim compatriots) and

one manifestation is a high level of participation in the 2015 federal election, in which multiculturalism and immigration became political flashpoints. They also stand out as being upbeat about the direction of the country overall: in 2016, nine in ten said it is moving in the right direction, a 10 point increase since 2006 and in contrast to declining confidence expressed by other Canadians. Notably, negative experiences with discrimination have not measurably sullied individuals’ sense of connection with the country and what it stands for. Because Muslims have a religion and cultural backgrounds unfamiliar to most other Canadians, they face questions about their commitment to becoming part of Canadian society. This research demonstrates this to be largely

More importantly, Muslims are as likely as non-Muslims to support diversity and connections between cultures. And they agree with other Canadians about the values that all immigrants should adopt when settling in Canada – language fluency, tolerance and respect for others and different cultures, appreciation of Canadian history and respect for the law. Arguably the greatest concern among non-Muslims is the perceived threat of domestic terrorism emanating from extremist Islamic ideology. This is also of great concern to Muslim Canadians, who take the threat of radicalization to violence very seriously given the impact extremist Islamic

movements can have on their own communities. Muslims in Canada believe that very few among them support the violent extremists abroad, and this view has strengthened over time. The vast majority place great importance on community cooperation with government agencies to address radicalization, and most are generally comfortable with the powers currently granted to the country’s security agencies, although there is clear discomfort with provisions in the Bill C-51 (The Anti-terrorism Act, 2015; https://www.parl. ca/DocumentViewer/en/41-2/ bill/C-51/royal-assent). The overall picture painted by this research offers a stark contrast with the stereotyped images that often form the basis for broader public opinion. The results portray a small but growing part of the country’s diverse population that is embracing Canada’s diversity, democracy and freedoms in the face of continuing controversy and mistreatment. Such research is essential to creating an accurate picture of the country’s Muslim community in a way that is systematic, credible and media friendly. The insights gained can test and debunk myths, provide a constructive narrative and help break down barriers between different parts of society that are built on ignorance and fear. Media, opinion leaders, employers and organizations can use these findings to educate and build awareness that will have long-term benefits for Muslim and non-Muslims alike. Plans are now underway to update this research in 2021 Contact for more information.  ih Keith Neuman, senior associate with the Environics Institute for Survey Research, has directed numerous ground breaking studies on such topics as immigration and diversity, social capital and Indigenous issues.



Nurturing Awe and Wonder in Early Learning The Quranic worldview cannot be compartmentalized BY ELMA HARDER


he idea of teaching with a Quranic worldview started when we began homeschooling. I shared the educational philosophy that grew during that experience and many ideas about it in my “Concentric Circles: Nurturing Awe and Wonder in Early Learning” [in consultation with Muzaffar Iqbal] (Muslim Education Foundation, Canada, 2006) We shared the book with our home education center’s principal to explore ways to support Muslim homeschooling families. The ideas kept germinating and eventually the book became the foundational text of the Sakinah Circle Alternative Program, a new initiative rooted in Edmonton Public Schools that delivers the Alberta Program of Study through the lens of the Quranic worldview. This is how Sakinah Circle’s vision has taken shape in the classroom.

chapters explores how this worldview shapes the learning process by establishing a Quranic orientation to the topic and then presenting a kaleidoscope of layered activities so learning can grow with the widening circles and reflect best practice. Thus, learning is always connected and unfolding from the central core. These chapters are: ■  The Two Learners: Every learning and teaching environment features the young and the not-so-young. The parents and teachers, who function as facilitators, must recognize and nurture the child’s original fitra and provide a meaningful learning process.

A FOUNDATIONAL APPROACH TO LEARNING This foundational text provides a Quranic worldview based on two core ideas: Every human has an inborn fitra, a primordial imprint deep in the spiritual realm of our being, deposited through a covenant established by the Creator (Q 7:172). The recognition of the Creator embedded in the nature of all human beings leads to the recognition of our place on Earth as vicegerents (khulafa’) of God. Each of our book’s six

■  The Space: As the learning environment is a powerful teacher, we can design nurturing places that help focus our learning, convey a sense of orientation, eliminate distractions and demonstrate a unicity within it. ■  Time: The quality of our time, which is directly related to our spiritual state, begins with intention. We can plan our days, routines and celebrations while reflecting on what


makes something meaningful and how our learning activities can be rooted in the Quranic worldview. ■  The Languages: A child’s first language is the language of fitra, which communicates the essential inner reality of things. Over time, languages are learned via articulated speech, symbols, patterns and signs of the cosmos. The languages of revelation and faith open yet more realms of understanding. ■  The Straight Path: We seek to plant the seeds of a lifelong relationship with the Qur’an. Young learners can learn to consciously walk, step by step, on it with an integrated worldview rooted in the Book. ■  Threads & Themes: Like the warp and weft of tapestry, threads of ideas can be woven into strong enduring concepts in the learning experience. This chapter outlines the framework of conceptual teaching drawing on Quranic themes. Three themes — Beginnings, The Garden and Tazkiyah (a striving that leads to success in this life and the next) — are developed into detailed teaching units with lessons and integrated activities. “Concentric Circles” encourages those who teach and learn to reflect and creatively reassess the “what,” “why” and “how” questions of education. Designed for committed Muslims and based on the belief that all of us are here for a purpose and that together we can learn and understand how to live with intention and meaning, this book conveys the kind of learning that is both

transformative and touches all learners at all levels.

SAKINAH CIRCLE Shortly after its publication, the Muslim Education Foundation partnered with the Argyll Centre for Home Education, which is part of Edmonton Public Schools, to host “Doorways to Islamic Civilization.” Initially an afterschool program for homeschoolers, it led to a full-time pilot program that, in 2010, became the Sakinah Circle Alternative Program. This program seeks to engage in a process of education that brings us closer to the Creator — a process of learning based on the Quranic worldview that encompasses all curricular disciplines to develop critical minds, conscious hearts and compassionate human beings.

Its mission is to provide guidance and an environment that recognizes the learner’s fitra, nurtures taqwa (Godconsciousness) and cultivates learners who strive to become khulafa’. Sakinah Circle is a unique alternative program within Grace Martin Elementary Public School. It teaches the Alberta Program of Study and its programming is based on a philosophy of education derived from the Quranic worldview, demonstrated by its curriculum content, the way it is delivered and the learning environment. In the curriculum documents, reflective questions

accompany each learning outcome to orient teacher thinking with the Quranic worldview. Enduring understandings are identified for each general learning outcome of the K-6 Alberta Programs of Study, among them: ■  Signs and symbols in the natural world point us to our Creator and Sustainer.

increase each child’s connection to the cosmos and to nurture awe and wonder in creation. ■  We are historically rooted to find our meaningful place in the timeline of history, connecting with our family and community roots and learning about Islamic civilization and traditions.

THIS PROGRAM SEEKS TO ENGAGE IN A PROCESS OF EDUCATION THAT BRINGS US CLOSER TO THE CREATOR — A PROCESS OF LEARNING BASED ON THE QURANIC WORLDVIEW THAT ENCOMPASSES ALL CURRICULAR DISCIPLINES TO DEVELOP CRITICAL MINDS, CONSCIOUS HEARTS AND COMPASSIONATE HUMAN BEINGS. ■  There is harmony in the cosmos. ■  We have a place in space and time. We are here for a purpose and will return to the Creator. ■  Language is a divine gift to be appreciated and treated as an amana (trust). ■ All prophets brought the same essential message: to remember God. ■  Sakina is the fruit of inner harmony and outer balance. We aspire to internalize sakina (calmness, tranquility) and make it externally visible by striving to balance the physical body via good nutrition, regular exercise and lifestyle habits of care and wellness. Strategies to nurture inner harmony include becoming mindful, observing the signs around us and focusing on sincerity of the heart and mind. Every classroom displays the five critical attributes: to be intentional, responsible, respectful, real and reflective individuals. The program’s three pedagogical pillars are: ■  We are nature-focused to

■  We are service-oriented to be intentional about good deeds, stewardship and becoming compassionate human beings with critical minds and conscious hearts. Every year, a theme connects our learning across subject areas at all grade levels. Themes like “The Garden,” “The Skies” and “Nourishment” are multifaceted Quranic concepts with layers of significant connections to the curriculum. “The Traveler,” for example, explored both modes of transportation and how life is a journey and the reasons for travel (to learn, work, migrate or go on pilgrimage) and allowed us to focus on Trade and Travel on the Silk Road. This last year’s theme, “Water”, as depicted on the poster, was integrated into all subject areas with the Quranic worldview at the top, coming down in raindrops; subject areas are indicated in the waves, with curriculum connections and some links to Islamic civilization and tradition; the bottom wave lists five general topics of water study (see our video “Wonders

of Water” https://gracemartin.

At the virtual June 2020 graduation ceremony, we bid farewell to our seventh cohort of sixth graders with the following [condensed] speech: Alhamdullilah, we’re celebrating your journey of learning in a rapidly changing world as you move from elementary school to junior high school. What have you gathered here in Sakinah Circle to carry to your next destination? What remains with you from Sakinah Circle’s thematic learning? What have you learned about being a responsible, respectful and reflective person who has roots in your

family and Islamic traditions, knowing that you are connected? Have you learned to be a person who looks at the cosmos and the natural world with wonder and awe; who begins the day with intention; is alive for a purpose; and has reason to do good deeds, to work for justice, to be a compassionate human being? A person who keeps trying to see the signs that guide us on the journey of life? We are always learning, looking, listening, seeing and hearing — seeking to understand the world around us and inside of us. Let’s remember to take a deep and quiet breath when things are easy or hard and to remember what’s important. With your energy and enthusiasm, your beautiful hearts and great dreams, you are the class of 2020. May your vision be very sharp. May Allah always put Light on your path. We wish you all the best. Bismillah.  ih Elma Harder, teacher and author of Concentric circles: Nurturing awe and wonder in early learning [in consultation with Muzaffar Iqbal], is program specialist in the Sakinah Circle Alternative Program, Edmonton Public Schools. She develops resources that bring the Quranic worldview into Sakinah classrooms. She can be reached at

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An Overview of Social Services for Muslim Canadians Traditional attitudes are very hard to change BY SHAHINA SIDDIQUI


uslim Canadians are projected to top 2 million by 2030 from their present 1.2 million. Considering this growth, they need to reexamine their priorities: What are and will be the needs of their families, youth and newcomers? Answering this question will enable us to establish sustainable, professional and integrated social services; provide mental health support independent of mosques; and to maintain the users’ confidentiality and dignity. Mosques can refer people to these services, as well as promote counseling and advising Muslims to use these services when necessary. Of course, these service providers will have to work within Canada’s legal framework and the paradigm of integrated Canadian and Islamic core values, and be equipped with multicultural literacy, to best serve their diverse clientele. During the 1950s and 1960s, the influx of Muslim immigrants necessitated the organization and establishment of mosques and community centers. In the following decades the building of mosques and Islamic schools was prioritized. The common myths were that Muslims did not have social or family issues like the general Canadian population, and that when they did, imams and family friends could deal with “social issues” regardless of their training and expertise.

A SNAPSHOT OF MUSLIM-TO-MUSLIM SOCIAL SERVICES ■  In 1990, the nonprofit Islamic Social Services and Resources Association (ISSRA; developed out of the Metro Toronto and area Muslims’ practical needs. During the 1980s, the Jami Mosque evolved from a small local house of worship into an all-purpose Islamic center serving thousands. Imam Abdullah Hakim Quick,

along with a core of dedicated Muslim professionals, offered to help serve vulnerable individuals and families. ■  The Islamic Family Social Services Association (IFSSA;, incorporated in 1992 in Edmonton, Alberta, by a small visionary and dedicated group, is the first Muslim social services organization not affiliated with any mosque or established Muslim organization. Its steady expansion into various offices that serve the city’s geographically diverse Muslims and the steady support it receives from the Alberta government for newcomers’ settlement services represents a success model for Muslim social services. ■  In 1993, Major (retd.) Abbas and Sarwar Jahan Begum (“Uncle” and “Aunty”) established a small Halal Food Bank in Scarborough, Ontario. Under the banner of Toronto’s Muslim Welfare Canada (MWC;, its motto was “Service to humanity is service to Allah.” Its existence was made possible through a loan from a good friend and well-wisher. The staff devoted their time, money and energy to developing this charity so that it could benefit the needy far into the future. This food bank, located in a 10×10 foot room, provided groceries and other essential household items to anyone in need, irrespective of religion, nationality or ethnicity. Within just a few years, its supporters’ generosity and volunteers enabled the center to enhance its services. It embraced a new goal — providing a safe haven for needy women and their children — to meet a critical need. With their tireless efforts and zeal, the duo realized this goal in 1996 and named this facility, located in Whitby, Ont., the Muslim Welfare Home for Needy Women and Children. Other pioneering services were gradually


introduced, among them international programs (e.g., supporting a child, free clinics, water exploration and disaster relief) in 2000, local programs (e.g., halal meals on wheels and halal food banks in Montreal and Mississauga) in 2005 and a free medical clinic for Scarborough’s uninsured residents in 2009. The planning and effective operation of these services kept the revered couple busy until the very end. Aged 87, Major Muhammad Abbas Ali breathed his last on April 17, 2009, after a brief illness while in Pakistan to monitor MWC’s international projects. In honor of his exemplary service to humanity, the City of Toronto renamed a Scarborough park as Major Abbas Ali Park. Appropriately, it is located very close to MWC’s head office — the same place where they began the charity in 1993. ■  The Muslim Family Network Society (MFNS; https://www.muslimfamilynetwork. org), established in Calgary in 2003, joins other Muslim community organization in holding clothes and food distribution drives that serve thousands each year. It also provides counseling and mediation services for individuals and families in crisis. Founder Idrees Khan has been recognized for her devotion to volunteerism and community services. ■  The nonprofit Muslim Resource Center for Social Support and Integration (http://, founded in 2009 in London, Ont., helps families and individuals overcome the realities that impact their family safety.

Shahina Siddiqui (second left) conducts an ISSA-Canada event

families, strengthening marriages, improving mental health and training service providers. ISSA-Canada, in addition to providing traditional social services, focuses on post9/11 realities and the demonization of Islam. These new concerns propelled it to engage with the media and human rights advocacy by prioritizing the publication of guides for all civil society sectors to address Islamophobia through education and information sharing. It offers professional and targeted training in cultural and spiritual literacy to law enforcement, schools, media, health care and other sectors. Having received international recognition for their content and vision, some of them have been reproduced in the U.S., Australia and Europe. Since many Muslims may choose to consult imams who aren’t necessarily trained as counselors or social workers, ISSA-

WITH 30 YEARS OF EXPERIENCE IN THIS FIELD, I CAN STATE WITHOUT A DOUBT THAT TODAY’S MUSLIMS ARE FACING THE SAME SOCIAL AND FAMILY ISSUES AS OTHER CANADIANS. STRADDLING TWO COUNTRIES The first North American Islamic Social Services Association (ISSA) was established in 1999 at a meeting of Muslim social workers, mental health professionals and community workers in Washington, D.C. Its visionary American founders were the late Dr. Maryam Funches, Dr. Aneesah Nadir and Dr. Bilqis Eltarab, and the Canadian Shahina Siddiqui. In 2003 ISSA Canada (http://issacanada. com) and ISSA USA ( split into independent sister organizations. That same year, ISSA-Canada received charitable status. During its first few years, ISSA hosted five North American conferences on Muslim social, mental health and family issues. The response was overwhelming and very positive. These conferences provide a forum for Muslim social workers, mental health professionals and researchers to highlight issues, share research, define advocacy as social service providers and discuss solutions and strategies to address the critical challenges facing North America’s Muslims. ISSA-USA’s focus remains empowering

Canada trains imams on how to understand and help Muslims resolve their issues within the Canadian context and informed by Islamic paradigm while encouraging them to make referrals to appropriate professionals. The course emphasizes Muslim spiritual counseling as regards domestic violence and sexual abuse. While ISSA-Canada is headquartered in Winnipeg, Manitoba, its services and expertise are sought nationwide both at home and abroad. Its successful approach helps Muslims deal with issues in a spiritually and culturally safe delivery model. It is currently formulating a national strategy to prevent Islamophobia through capacity and skill building. ISSA-Canada seeks to make Canada’s public service sectors competent and free of anti-Muslim bias by providing educational training. To that end, it initiated the formation of the Federation of Canadian Muslim Social Services to coordinate and facilitate the exchange of expertise, research, skills and information among various regional and national Muslim service agencies both to avoid duplication and to develop a strong

platform for advocacy on social issues on the community’s behalf. Other new initiatives have filled some gaps, among them Naseeha (https://naseeha. org), a hotline for Toronto youth, and NISA Homes (, which serves women seeking shelter. A major development in social service for Muslims in Canada has been the establishment of Deen Support Services (, a registered Canadian charity founded by Muslims with disabilities, which operates several programs and services through the Muneeba Center in Mississauga and serves people with disabilities regardless of religion, language and culture.

A POSITIVE DEVELOPMENT This growth in social services indicates that social issues are being taken seriously. And yet funding these nonprofit organizations remains a non-priority for the community. Even today, Muslim Canadians are more willing to donate for building mosques and Islamic schools, rather than to services that strengthen families, provide counseling services and help people in crisis. Our collective proverbial “head in the sand of denial” still prevails. With 30 years of experience in this field, I can state without a doubt that today’s Muslims are facing the same social and family issues as other Canadians. The divorce rate among North American Muslims is almost equal to that of the rest of society. Suicide, depression, anxiety, domestic abuse, at-risk youth, anti-social behavior, family conflict, as well as addiction to drugs, alcohol and pornography, are all on the rise. Untreated mental health issues, war trauma, sexual abuse, at-risk youth and intergenerational stressors are increasing at an alarming rate. We have reached a critical stage to reassess our priorities and start investing in the area of social service, mental health and family empowerment. If Muslims Canadians ignore these new realities and problems, they will be responsible for causing irreparable damage to their social and family structures. Coordinating and supporting Muslim-toMuslim social services, delivered by qualified professionals, can no longer be ignored.  ih Shahina Siddiqui, LLD, co-founder and volunteer executive director of ISSA-Canada, is a freelance writer, spiritual counselor, human rights and anti-racism activist, public speaker and chair of Islamic History Month Canada.



Building an Identity for Canadian Muslims The story of the Muslim Association of Canada BY MEMONA HOSSAIN


he first part of the 20th century saw waves of immigrants coming from Europe, Lebanon, Syria, Bosnia, Croatia and Turkey in response to wars, countries splitting apart, economic pursuits and similar causes. However, the century’s latter part would see larger numbers of Muslims seeking new opportunities after Canada adopted a more open-door immigration policy. Many of these new arrivals, primarily students with a strong sense of Islamic identity who wanted to pursue higher education, eventually settled down and developed a vision for a permanent Islamic presence here. During the 1960s and 1970s, the revival of Islam and the Muslim identity in Muslimmajority countries was either being supported or suppressed for political reasons. Many international university students shared a common desire to revive Islamic principles and started on-campus Muslim Students’ Associations (MSAs). Desiring to remain involved in MSA’s work after graduation, their aspirations to start families drove them to engage in community work through ISNA, ICNA (the Islamic Circle of North America) and other newly

established charitable Islamic service-based organizations. The post-MSA group connected with immigrant families arriving during the 1980s and 1990s. These immigrants, who also wanted to preserve their cultural and religious identity, were seeking to develop and uphold an Islamic identity for themselves and their successors. This would give rise to a common Islamic bond that would supersede other nationalistic ties. During the late 1990s, Muslim individuals and families in Canada grasped that they needed their own vision — one that enabled those who came after them to build a strong sense of Islamic identity and civic engagement. One group of families realized that such a vision, to be successful, must include grassroots mobilization and developing an actual nationwide presence through mosques, schools and community centers. This undertaking required people who possessed specific characteristics as translated from the Quran: “By the passage of time. Surely humanity is in [grave] loss, except for those who have faith, do good, and urge each other to the truth and urge each other to perseverance” (103:1-3). Among them are


remaining focused on Islamic work; dedicating themselves to developing a vibrant Islamic presence; formulating a regimen of constant personal development to maintain that internal spark; building mutual trust, connection, support and celebrating successes; sharing a common understanding of Islam and how to live and build it; nurturing a sense of collective commitment and cooperation to foster resilience and perseverance; and believing that collective action can bring about sustained, meaningful outcomes that individual efforts cannot. These foundational characteristics would define the type of builders who would seek to implement the Prophet’s (salla Allahu ‘aalyhi wa sallam) life in realizing this vision for Islam in Canada. The Muslim Association of Canada (MAC; was founded in the late 1990s by a group of families. They were focussed on establishing a spiritual and physical presence across the country through strenuous, yet humble, efforts. MAC realized the importance of grassroots mobilization at the local level, which would simultaneously be connected to a national structure, capable of national mobilization. Physical spaces were critical to this framework. A physical space of gathering, of feeling community and of communal ownership is necessary to providing the spaces integral to a healthy identity. MAC’s members strove to connect deeply with one another to grow spiritually and to build a sense of trust; form strong, cohesive bonds among their respective communities; and create a physical presence by developing mosques, schools, centers and institutions. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, MAC established several chapters in major cities and worked to build institutions in these chapters. The institutions would aim to become spaces of gathering, worshipping and providing services. It should be noted that, at this time and despite their own efforts to build financial stability, families would often ration from their monthly budget to help pay for the purchase of schools and centers. Building an Islamic presence in Canada was not a matter of choice, but a matter of survival. When MAC articulated its mission and values statements, it was important that it was relevant, resonated with Canadian Muslims and, most importantly, embodied MAC’s core values. “Our mission is to establish an Islamic presence in Canada that is

AT A TIME WHEN CRITICAL THINKING AND THE UNDERSTANDING OF AN ISLAMIC IDENTITY IS STRONGLY IMPACTED BY SOCIETAL SHIFTS, A NATIONAL ORGANIZATION NEEDS TO BE CONSISTENTLY COGNIZANT OF THE BALANCED AND PREVALENT UNDERSTANDING OF ISLAM THAT IT IS FOUNDED ON. THIS MEANS STAYING RELEVANT YET ANCHORED IN MAC’S CORE VALUES AND MISSION. balanced, constructive, an​d integrated, though distinct, in the social fabric and culture of Canada.” MAC recognized that its focus of realizing this mission would primarily be through education and community services centered first and foremost on personal character development, and then on civic engagement and service for the sake of God. A consistent peer-to-peer model of learning that focuses on spiritual development and striving to be God-centered in every moment of life is a defining principle of personal development in MAC. MAC saw education as the means to impact, empower and mobilize Muslim Canadian citizens to make meaningful contributions within whichever sphere of influence they are engaged — personal, professional, academic, community or other spheres. Today, more than 20 years after its inception and through God’s benevolence, MAC has become Canada’s largest grassroots Muslim organization. It currently reaches 80,000+ individuals annually, has 13 chapters across major cities, 16 mosques and community centers, seven full-time schools, 20 weekend schools and four childcare centers. The work is structured through a central National Executive Council with departments in education,

institutions, youth, community engagement and communications. MAC continues to focus on making an impact through education. Its full-time schools, which seek to develop God-centered individuals, started with elementary schools and slowly added middle and high school classes. This year, MAC celebrated the first set of students that completed their entire K-12 education through MAC schools. A crisis puts an organization’s true capabilities and capacities to the test. Within a few weeks of the nationwide shutdown due to Covid-19, the youth quickly mobilized MAC Community Foodshare programs across 10 major cities to distribute groceries and basic hygiene packages to local individuals and families. The rapidly growing project raised over C$230,000 and delivered 10,000 packages nationwide. MAC has been pushed to creatively conceive and deliver an Eid celebration unlike any previous one. It created and streamed a spiritually inspired, family-friendly and celebratory nationwide live program to nearly 20,000 homes. Personal messages from major political party leaders, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, were featured. Finally, as the provincial governments announced the phased opening up of community spaces, MAC partnered

with provincial political leaders to lead the protocols for safely reopening mosques and educating mosque leaders across the country about these protocols. MAC’s partnership and mobilization initiatives over the past few years have included community events with other faith groups, Islamic centers and organizations, local shelters and food banks and Canadian Blood Services, as well as projects and studies with local universities, hospitals and environmental groups. Each Eid, MAC’s eleven chapters serve their respective communities with a family Eid event that gathers major politicians, community leaders and families for daylong celebrations serving up to 15,000 attendees. MAC has spent decades working to both establish itself and to respond to societal changes. During this time, one thing has become very clear: the diverse representation and, therefore, needs of the very diverse Muslim Canadian community. While diversity is certainly a blessing, it is also accompanied by a complexity that must be considered within the organization’s identity and work. At a time when critical thinking and the understanding of an Islamic identity is strongly impacted by societal shifts, a national organization needs to be consistently cognizant of the balanced and prevalent understanding of Islam upon which it is founded. This means staying relevant yet anchored in MAC’s core values and mission. MAC’s journey and achievements as an organization over the past 20 years are through God’s benevolence. MAC’s greatest capital is developing sincere Muslim Canadians with the correct, balanced understanding of Islam who live the core principles of collective mobilization and work together to willingly sacrifice their time, money and efforts to build on the vision of Islam, as was the Prophet’s mission. “Whoever submits themselves to God and is a good-doer, they have certainly grasped the firmest handhold. And with God rests the outcome of all affairs” (31:22). MAC believes and hopes that collectively Muslims can join to bring good to each other and for the communities that surround them. May God continue to provide such opportunities. “As for those who struggle in Our cause, We will surely guide them along Our Way. And God is certainly with the doers of good” (29:69).  ih Memona Hossain currently serves on MAC’s board of directors.



Black Muslims in Canada A more accurate version of Canada’s history is coming to light BY FATIMAH JACKSON-BEST


he year 2019 marked the launching of the findings of the Black Muslim Initiative (https://, a research project focused on the perspectives of Black Muslims living in Canada. The Tessellate Institute ( supported this grassroots organization’s endeavor to address anti-Black racism and Islamophobia. The project broke new ground, for it was the first time a systematic review of the published and unpublished literature on Black Muslims in Canada had been conducted. As the lead researcher and as a Black Muslimah, I went into it not knowing what the results would be, but confident that the outcome would significantly amplify our histories and experiences in this country. More than one year has passed, and the findings’ significance remains undiminished. During this time, Black people around the world have added their voices and experiences to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, which originated as a hashtag used by activists in the U.S. in 2013 after the murderer of Trayvon Martin, a Black teenager, was acquitted of all charges. In 2020, we have watched it expand as Black people worldwide have used this moment to identify the specific forms of racism that affect us in our respective countries, cities and communities. The BLM movement is part of a long history of global liberation struggles led by Black communities. Many of our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents joined anti-colonial movements in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. Some were active in North America’s civil rights and anti-segregation struggles.

However, Covid-19 has made this year’s resurgence of BLM even stronger by making the underlying structural inequalities and inequities almost impossible to ignore. We are all seeing in real-time just how fragile our systems are as they grapple with the pandemic. As a result, the inherently flawed, unjust and often violent system that treats Black people as if we are disposable and our communities are expendable can no longer be denied. Black Canadians are no strangers to systemic and institutional forms of racism, violence and anti-Black racism. Despite efforts to mute this part of its history, Canada enslaved Africans for 200+ years and, later on, enacted segregationist policies that further marginalized Black people. Of course, this dehumanization was enabled by settler colonialism and the genocide of Indigenous people. Today we see these systems’ legacies in the over-policing of Black and Indigenous people, which leads to the over-representation of both groups in prisons as well as their higher rates of death and violence at the hands of police and the state. Many Black Muslims in Canada also share the experience of anti-Black Islamophobia (Mugabo, D. I. [2016]. Geographies and futurities of being. In fact, the term “Anti-Black Islamophobia” — defined as racism enacted by non-Black Muslims and non-Muslims toward Black Muslims and individuals who are perceived as having that identity — was central to the report’s research findings. This is because such racism often erases us from the dominant narratives about Muslim identity, the lack of meaningful inclusion in the public sphere, tokenism, ignorance or denial of the kinds of discrimination we


face and the countless micro-aggressions we confront in religious spaces. At its core, anti-Black Islamophobia is deeply dehumanizing because it ignores the fact that Canada’s first Muslims were among the enslaved Africans brought here by European colonizers. Upon their arrival, they were forcibly Christianized and forbidden to practice their religious traditions overtly. Many had to hide or abandon their beliefs just to survive.

Canada differ; and that how we idealize and imagine our communities is being called into question. It pushes us to recognize and reckon with the fact that many of us are comfortable believing that Canada’s first Muslims migrated for social, political or economic reasons, instead of being forced into the bellies of slave ships and experiencing violence and death through colonial power structures. This knowledge also makes acknowledging and resisting systemic racism a must for us all — both Black and non-Black BLACK CANADIANS ARE NO Muslims. We know that racism in all STRANGERS TO SYSTEMIC AND of its forms disproportionately impacts Black people. Thus non-Black Muslims INSTITUTIONAL FORMS OF RACISM, should start reflecting on how they can VIOLENCE AND ANTI-BLACK RACISM. provide meaningful support to moveDESPITE EFFORTS TO MUTE THIS PART ments that seek to eradicate racism by turning inward and challenging OF ITS HISTORY, CANADA ENSLAVED anti-Blackness in their own communities and families. It may be easy for AFRICANS FOR 200+ YEARS AND, to join a protest or read a report LATER ON, ENACTED SEGREGATIONIST some on Black Muslims in Canada, but far POLICIES THAT FURTHER more difficult to hold your families and friends accountable for anti-Blackness. MARGINALIZED BLACK PEOPLE. And yet these kinds of actions are what is most needed right now. Similarly, as we learn about how Covid-19 has a The 2019 research discusses people like Mohamed Baquaqua, who was born into a Muslim family in Benin more negative impact on Black and low-income people during the 1820s and later sold into slavery in Brazil. and communities, it is also important that Muslims It is reported that he eventually escaped to the north- in Canada position ourselves to provide aid and help eastern U.S. before relocating to Haiti and then Canada wherever possible. This is not a time to stand by or, (Turner, R. B. [2003]. Islam in the African-American worse, to be on the wrong side of history. We all must experience. Indiana University Press). Mugabo (2016b) actively work toward justice as if our lives depend on also connects historical evidence, such as late 17th-cen- it, because for some of us this is our reality.  ih tury baptismal records of enslaved Africans brought Dr. Fatimah Jackson-Best is project manager, Pathways to Care, and a to Quebec from Muslim-majority West African coun- public health researcher and consultant. tries like Guinea, and surmises that many of them were Muslim (On rocks and hard places: A reflection on antiblackness in organizing against Islamophobia. doi: A Good Deed Done Regularly! 10.5749/jcritethnstud.2.2.0159). This finding is strengthened by research conducted in You can make an impact with as little as the U.S., the Caribbean and Latin America, which also shows that the Black African Muslim men and women brought to work as slaves were the first people to bring Islam to these regions. Black Muslims also joined and even led rebellions, such as the Malê revolt of 1835 in Bahia, Brazil, where a group of Black Muslim slaves and freedmen, inspired by Muslim teachers, rose up against the government. This truth regarding Canada’s first Muslims disrupts the dominant narratives about Canada and the Muslim presence in this country. In addition to confirming that Canada practiced slavery, this knowledge also forces non-Black Muslims to recognize that African Muslims, as opposed to immigrant Muslims, were here first. • (317) 839-8157 Moreover their unique history of colonization and enslavement forces Muslims to confront the reality that Convenient. Secure. Affordable. we are not all the same; that our histories and routes to

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Muslim North Americans Continue Their Jihad Against Hunger When “action, not words,” became the unspoken rallying cry BY ISLAMIC HORIZONS STAFF


he Covid-19 pandemic continues to keep millions of people out of work. Across North America, Muslims are living Prophet Muhammad’s (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) guidance, as reported by Ibn Abbas: “He is not a believer whose stomach is filled while the neighbor to his side goes hungry” (“al-Sunan al-Kubra,” hadith no. 19049). We take a look at a few places nationwide. The All-Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) of Sterling, Va., collected and delivered, either at pick-up centers or at home, packages of dairy products and fresh produce to at least 1,000 area families on June 12. ADAMS also sent food parcels to area soup kitchens. On June 5, The Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis helped distribute boxes — valued at about $30 each — from a truck loaded with 22,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables, reported on Jun 6. This distribution remains ongoing. Volunteers at the Al-Hidaya Center in Latham, N.Y., prepared and distributed 1,409 meals on one day to homeless shelters and the needy on the 2020 Annual National Muslim Soup Kitchen Day, reported the Albany, N.Y. Times Union on June 6. Muslim Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute students launched this project in 2003. In Baltimore, the Muslim Social Services Agency and partners gave away food gift cards, hot meals, water and canned goods. Founder Hassan Amin told 2 ABC WMAR on June 14 that the recipient’s skin color or gender is irrelevant, for their effort is all about helping others. The Zakat Foundation of America (ZFA), after learning that farmers were being forced to destroy crops even as fears of food shortages were rising, persuaded them to donate bags of potatoes. As of June 10, more than 500,000 lbs. of potatoes had been distributed in Illinois, California, Virginia, Michigan, Missouri and North Carolina.

In California, partnering with actor, comedian, director and producer Omar Regan (known for his work on Rush Hour 2, Internet Dating and American Sharia, among other films), ZFA gave out 44,000 lbs. of potatoes, half of which went to the Orange County Food Bank to be redistributed. The other half went to other organizations that requested help, including Access California and Anaheim Saddleback Church. Mosques that have food kitchens — Long Beach Sharif Mosque, Anaheim Al-Ansar Mosque, Madina Islamic Center in Norwalk — also received shares. San Bernardino’s Sahaba Initiative Food Pantry received 7,000 lbs., and Corona Norco Mosque received 9,000 lbs. More potato distributions are coming, including a couple of thousand pounds to Riverside Pomona Day Labor Center. Each of these entities will distribute potatoes to families during their Covid-19 food drive. On June 20, ZFA delivered nearly 35,000 lbs. of farm-fresh produce to food-insecure East Oakland — one of the heaviest hit parts of Alameda County — for free distribution at Masjidul Waritheen, the city’s oldest mosque. The food relief comes after weeks of near-total shutdowns, impelled by violent police crackdowns on ethnically diverse anti-racist protestors outraged by police brutality against African Americans in general and ignited by the public police lynching of George Floyd. More than 30 Bay Area organizations under the Northern California Islamic Council (NCIC) umbrella — including Lighthouse Mosque and CAIR-Calif. — helped pass out produce crates to some 7,000 people. NCIC chair Hatem Bazian, co-editor and founder of the Islamophobia Studies Journal, director of the Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project and a senior lecturer in the Department of Near Eastern and Ethnic Studies at University


of California, Berkeley, said credit should go to NCIC’s partnership with the leadership of the African American Muslim community. In honor of George Floyd’s memory, ZFA joined hands with CAIR-Minnesota on July 2 to distribute another 22,000 lbs. of fresh fruits and vegetables in St. Cloud, Minn. — a poor area with a predominantly Somali

BROTHERS HAMZA AND ANAS DEIB WERE NAMED NEW YORK POST’S HERO OF THE DAY ON MAY 25. SEEING THEIR RESTAURANTS LOSE 90% OF THEIR BUSINESS, THEY AND THEIR SEVEN SIBLINGS CLOSED THEM BUT CONTINUED TO SERVE OTHERS LARGELY OUT OF THEIR OWN POCKETS. immigrant community. The rural communities of Faribault, Willmar and Rochester also received shares. Over 50 tons had been distributed in Minneapolis during June. On July 3, ZFA, in partnership with the NAACP Springfield, Ill., branch and Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, delivered 10,000 lbs. of farm-fresh produce (each package containing 25 lbs. of produce) to Springfield for free distribution to low-income families, the jobless, veterans and seniors. Brothers Hamza and Anas Deib were named New York Post’s Hero of the Day on May 25. Seeing their restaurants lose 90% of their business, they and their seven siblings closed them but continued to serve others largely out of their own pockets. Initially, they were serving about 100 meals a day to hospitals and police departments, using up the large stockpile of inventory at their two Taheni restaurants in Park Slope (Brooklyn) and Hell’s Kitchen (Manhattan). When food pantries, homeless shelters and nonprofit organizations started asking for help, the Deib family was cooking and serving 1,000 meals a day for the entire month of Ramadan. Unlike dozens of Big Apple restaurants that have worked to feed others through corporate sponsorship and online donation drives, Deib said his family didn’t really start receiving donations until the last week of Ramadan, when the group Nowhere Men made a short video about their work. After it spread online, they started a GoFundMe page because people kept contacting them and offering to help. The Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center, one of the largest and busiest in the Twin Cities — the epicenter of the protests   Harris County Public Health executive director Umair Shah (right) briefs Pakistani Consul General in Houston Abrar Hashmi (left) as he visits the Covid-19 testing center hosted by the Masjid al-Mustafa Bear Creek Islamic Center

— began distributing food and essentials immediately after South Minneapolis’ leading grocery stores were closed. Volunteers were handing out essentials daily, reported Mohamud Farah Dulyadey of on June 11. Imam Mowlid Ali appreciated the fact that Somali small businesses contributed to the ongoing charity work. Abdullahi Farah (Abdi Wajid), the center’s executive director, is leading this effort and working with Muslim Youth and Family Services. The center also acknowledged the theater-based University Rebuild group for helping communities in the Twin Cities board up their properties to protect them. The Cleveland Muslim Volunteers group, which started its free grocery delivery program in March when Ohio began shutting down, conducted its food distribution drive from Rumi’s Market. It provided two weeks’ worth of free food and made daily citywide deliveries, regardless of the recipient’s religion or income level, reported News5 Cleveland ABC on May 22. In London, Ontario, Muslims launched the city’s first Muslim Soup Kitchen on July 4. The sponsors include the London Muslim Mosque, the Islamic Centre of Southwestern Ontario, the Muslim Association of Canada, the north London Islamic Centre and the Hyatt Mosque. Local restaurants provided the food. In the past, these organizations have donated food to the local Salvation Army and the St. Vincent de Paul Society and served food at Mission Services and the Salvation Army. Earlier, soup kitchen volunteers served meals to the women who use My Sister’s Place, but decided that they wanted to serve children and men as well. “There is a crisis in terms of poverty, in terms of families not having enough food to eat in this city. As Muslims, it’s part of our faith and it’s part of other faiths as well to help those in need,” Zeba Hashmi, a volunteer behind the project, told CBC News on June 26.  ih



Tennessee Muslims Effectively Organize Against Islamophobia Free speech versus hate speech versus common sense BY SABINA MOHYUDDIN


n June 21, 2020, The Tennessean ran a full-page Islamophobic advertisement alleging that “Islam” was planning “to detonate a nuclear device” in Nashville on July 18. Muslim leaders expressed their outrage. However, the intentional harm it sought to cause couldn’t be undone by simply pulling it because not only did it make Nashville’s Muslims targets, but it also set a dangerous precedent over what the newspaper was willing to print in the name of free speech. The American Muslim Advisory Council (AMAC;, which empowers the state’s Muslims through civic engagement, community building and improved media relations, along with Muslim leaders, demanded that The Tennessean act to undo the harm. AMAC brought together community members to condemn Islamophobia and stand against hate. Nearly 700 organizations and community members across the state stood with Muslims to condemn Islamophobia in a full-page ad published by The Tennessean on June 28. “We know many more are standing by our side. That is the power of community. But this is not just about Islamophobia. This is about the hate that is used to divide our community. The hate that is spewed against all groups whether it’s through anti-Black racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, homophobia and more,” said AMAC executive director Sabina Mohyuddin.

She stressed, “We must stand together to send a clear message that we will fight against hate wherever we find it.” The Tennessean’s editors, reporters and staff apologized to community leaders for


their “mistake” and announced the steps they were taking to make amends. In his June 28 editorial David Plazas, director of opinion and engagement for the USA Today Network in Tennessee, apologized for the ad and past Islamophobic articles. Ryan Kedzierski, the newspaper’s vice-president of advertising, accompanied it with a full-page apology. Islamic Center of Nashville director of community partnerships Rashed Fakhruddin said, “We are also grateful to The Tennessean, their leadership, in their swift action in correcting the situation, taking this issue seriously and making this a top priority, and their sincerity throughout this process.” The Tennessean donated the ad’s proceeds to AMAC for its work in fighting Islamophobia in the state and $50,000 free ad space for the community’s response. They fired the sales manager, implemented stronger protocols to prevent such puerile content from being published again and will conduct regular cultural competency training. Community leaders received this swift response due to the many years spent building relationships with the newspaper’s leadership. Muslims have written editorials in The Tennessean for over 15 years, commenting on issues relating directly to Islam and issues affecting Nashville. They knew whom to call to have their stories covered, and didn’t hesitate to inform the writers whenever fair representation in coverage was lacking. In 2015, the Islamic Center of

Nashville hosted several members of The Tennessean’s editorial board and other guests, including politicians, for one of their Islam 101 Ramadan Fellowship Dinners. They hold around six such events every Ramadan, bringing together a wide range of people from nonprofits, politicians, educators, neighbors, businesses, athletics and the general public. This relationship had gradually produced many personal friendships. In 2017, Plazas was asked to be a judge for the country displays at the Islamic Center of Nashville’s annual Diversity Brunch. Almost 1,000 visitors came from across the city. All of these and other efforts lay at the foundation of this mutually productive relationship.

WE KNOW MANY MORE ARE STANDING BY OUR SIDE. THAT IS THE POWER OF COMMUNITY. BUT THIS IS NOT JUST ABOUT ISLAMOPHOBIA. THIS IS ABOUT THE HATE THAT IS USED TO DIVIDE OUR COMMUNITY. THE HATE THAT IS SPEWED AGAINST ALL GROUPS WHETHER IT’S THROUGH ANTI-BLACK RACISM, XENOPHOBIA, ANTI-SEMITISM, HOMOPHOBIA AND MORE,” SAID AMAC EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR SABINA MOHYUDDIN. Moreover, the state’s Muslims have been forging alliances and friendships with faith communities, social justice organizations, elected officials and prominent individuals. These relationships enabled them to bring together organizations and fellow Tennesseans, including a U.S. congressman, city council members, Vanderbilt and Belmont and other local universities, the YWCA, the Tennessee Human Rights Commission, pastors, rabbis and others, to sign the pledge against Islamophobia and hate. Of course, they have built strong alliances and a united front with their fellow Muslims. Moreover, mosque officials have been working with the AMAC alongside other organizations like Millions of Conversations ( Mohyuddin cautions that as the election season goes into full swing, so will the anti-Muslim rhetoric. As witnessed in Tennessee, Muslim communities must continue to foster strong relationships with community leaders and allies to effectively fight the hate and misinformation that seeks to divide Americans. Fakhruddin also explains that building relationships must be approached from every angle and that we cannot dismiss something so simple as starting with those close to us and our mosques, such as neighbors, colleagues, police, school officials, politicians and area businesspeople.  ih Sabina Mohyuddin is executive director, the American Muslim Advisory Council.

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Fake Hafez: How a Supreme Persian Poet of Love was Erased That so many of the poems attributed to Hafez are fake reveals a Western appropriation of Muslim spirituality BY OMID SAFI


uring summer months I regularly receive daily requests to track down the original, authentic versions of some famed Muslim poet, usually Hafez or Rumi, for Muslims who are getting married and for parents whose children are graduating. It’s heartbreaking to write that about 99.9% of the quotes and poems attributed to Hafez, one the most popular and influential of all the Persian poets and Muslim sages ever, a member of the pantheon of “universal” spirituality on the Internet, are fake. Consider these quotes: “Even after all this time, / the sun never says to the earth, / ‘you owe me.’ / Look what happens with a love like that! / It lights up the whole sky.” And “Your heart and my heart / Are very very old friends.” And “Fear is the cheapest room in the house. / I would like to see you living in better conditions.” Beautiful, but they are not from the real Hafez. They are the pure inventions of Daniel Ladinsky, an American poet who has been publishing books under the name of Hafez for over 20 years. This hurts, because I know so many love these “Hafez” translations. They are beautiful poetry in English and do contain some profound wisdom. And yet Ladinsky has admitted that they are neither “translations” nor “accurate” and even denied having any knowledge of Persian in his 1996 best-selling

“I Heard God Laughing.” His other bestseller is “The Subject Tonight Is Love.” Persian speakers take poetry seriously. For many, it’s their singular contribution to world civilization: What the Greeks are to philosophy, Persians are to poetry. And in the great pantheon of Persian poetry, perhaps no one’s mastery of Persian is as refined as that of Hafez. In my introduction to a recent book on Hafez, I said that Rumi (whose poetic output is in

being a perfect cut. You cannot add or take away a word from his ghazals. So, pray tell, how can someone who doesn’t know Persian translate it? In Ladinsky’s own words, “About six months into this work I had an astounding dream in which I saw Hafiz as an Infinite Fountaining Sun (I saw him as God), who sang hundreds of lines of his poetry to me in English, asking me to give that message to ‘my artists and seekers.’”

THIS ISN’T SIMPLY A MATTER OF A TRANSLATION DISPUTE OR ALTERNATE MODELS OF TRANSLATIONS, BUT A MATTER OF POWER, PRIVILEGE AND ERASURE. ALL BOOKSTORES HAVE LIMITED SHELF SPACE. WILL WE SEE THE REAL RUMI OR HAFEZ OR NOT? the tens of thousands) comes at you like an ocean, pulling you in until you surrender to his mystical wave and are washed back to the ocean. Hafez, on the other hand, is like a luminous diamond, with each facet


While I can’t argue with people and their dreams, this is certainly not how translation works. Christopher Shackle, a great scholar of Persian and Urdu literature, describes Ladinsky’s output as “not so

much a paraphrase as a parody of the wondrously wrought style of the greatest master of Persian art-poetry.” The poet, translator and essayist Murat Nemet-Nejat says it is no more than Ladinsky’s original poems masquerading as a “translation.” To give credit where credit is due, the following line shows that he is indeed a gifted poet: “I wish I could show you / when you are lonely or in darkness / the astonishing light of your own being.” That is good stuff. Powerful. Many mystics, including the 20th-century Sufi master Pir Vilayat, would cast his powerful glance at his students, stating that he would long for them to be able to see themselves and their own worth as he sees them. So yes, Ladinsky’s poetry is mystical. And it is great poetry. So good that it is listed on Good Reads as the wisdom of “Hafez of Shiraz.” The problem is, Hafez of Shiraz said nothing like that. Oprah, the BBC and others have passed on these “translations.” Government officials have used them on occasions to include Persian speakers

Divan, collected works, by Hafez, calligraphy by Enayatollah al-Shirazi, Iran, late 16th century AD, ink, watercolour, gold on paper © Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, Canada

and Iranians. It is now part of the spiritual wisdom of the East shared in Western circles. This is great for Ladinsky, but we are missing the chance to hear from the actual, real Hafez. And that is a shame.

SO, WHO WAS THE REAL HAFEZ (1315-1390)? He was a Muslim, Persianspeaking sage whose collection of love poetry rivals only that of Mawlana Rumi in terms of its popularity and influence. Hafez’s given name was Muhammad, and he was called Shams al-Din (The Sun of Religion). “Hafez” is actually an honorific signifying that he had memorized the Quran. His poetry collection, the “Divan,” was referred to as “Lisan al-Ghayb” (“The Tongue of the Unseen Realms”). A great scholar of Islam, the late Shahab Ahmed, referred to Hafez’s Divan as “the most widely-copied, widely-circulated, widely-read, widely-memorized, widely-recited, widely-invoked, and widely-proverbialized book of poetry in Islamic history.” Even accounting for a slight debate that gives some

indication of his immense following, Hafez’s poetry is considered the very epitome of Persian in the ghazal tradition. Even though his worldview is inseparable from the world of medieval Islam, the genre of Persian love poetry and more, Hafez is deliciously impossible to pin down: A mystic who pokes fun at ostentatious mystics; “he who has committed the Qur’an to heart,” yet loathes religious hypocrisy; one who shows his own piety, yet fills his poetry with literal or symbolic references to intoxication and wine. The most sublime part of Hafez’s poetry is its ambiguity. It’s like a Rorschach psychological test in poetry. Mystics, wine-drinkers and anti-religious types all see it as a sign of their own yearning. Trying to impose a definitive meaning on him would rob him of what makes him ... Hafez. His tomb in Shiraz, a magnificent Iranian city, is a popular pilgrimage site and the honeymoon destination for many Iranian newlyweds. His poetry, alongside that of Rumi and Sa‘di, are main staples of vocalists in

Iran to this day, including beautiful covers by leading maestros like Shahram Nazeri and Mohammadreza Shajarian. Like many other Persian poets and mystics, Hafez’s influence can be felt wherever Persianate culture was a presence, including South and Central Asia, Afghanistan and the Ottoman realm. Persian was the literary language par excellence from Bengal to Bosnia for almost a millennium, a reality buried under more recent nationalistic and linguistic barrages. Part of what is going on here is what we also see, to a lesser extent, with Rumi: the voice and genius of Shiraz’s Persianspeaking, Muslim, mystical, sensual sage, and the communities who have taken Hafez’s poetry to heart for centuries, are being usurped and erased by a White American having no connection to Hafez’s Islam or the Persian tradition. In short, what we have here is spiritual colonialism. In a 2013 interview Ladinsky asked: “Is it Hafez or Danny? I don’t know. Does it really matter?” I think it matters a great deal, for there are larger issues of language, community and power involved here. This is not simply a matter of a translation dispute or alternate models of translations, but a matter of power, privilege and erasure. All bookstores have limited shelf space. Will we see the real Rumi or Hafez or not? Did no publisher hire someone qualified to check these “translations” against the original to see if there is a relationship? Was a person with a meaningful connection to the communities who have lived through Hafez for centuries present when these decisions were made? Even today Hafez’s poetry remains the lifeline of the poetic and religious imagination of tens of millions of human beings. He has something to say — and to

sing — to humanity at large. Bypassing those who have kept him in their heart, just as Hafez kept the Quran in his heart, is tantamount to erasure and appropriation. Our current president ran on a campaign of “Islam hates us” and enacted a cruel Muslim ban immediately upon taking office. As Edward Said and other theorists have reminded us, culture is inseparable from politics. Thus there is something sinister about denying Muslims entrance while stealing and appropriating their crown jewels simply as decor for poetry that is entirely unrelated to the original. Without equating the two, this is reminiscent of White America’s endless fascination with Black culture and music while continuing to perpetuate systems and institutions that leave Black folk unable to breathe. There is one last element: Ladinsky’s removing Islam from Rumi and Hafez is an act of violence. It is quite another thing to remove Rumi and Hafez from Islam. That is both a separate matter and a mandate for Muslims to reimagine a faith steeped in the world of poetry, nuance, mercy, love, spirit and beauty. Far from merely being content with criticizing such appropriations and erasures, it’s up to us to reimagine the Islam in which figures like Rumi and Hafez are central voices. This has been part of what many of us feel called to and are pursuing through initiatives like Illuminated Courses (https:// We would love to invite the readers to join us in these courses to see a voice of Islam that is rooted in the qualities of love and mercy, beauty and poetry that made Rumi and Hafez sages and poets worthy of being remembered for centuries.  ih Omid Safi, a professor of Islamic Studies at Duke University, is the founder of Illuminated Courses.



No, We're NOT all in This Together When will we pay heed to Maya Angelou’s simple premise, “We are more alike, my friend, than we are unalike!” BY ABDUL CADER ASMAL


ust over 50 years after Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. warned Americans of the triple evils — racism, economic exploitation and militarism — that would upend the world, the Covid19 pandemic has brought the country to the tipping point and generated worldwide economic devastation. Hitherto, many contended that unrestrained materialism powered by unbridled capitalism would guarantee a brighter future with better incomes, job security, paid sick leave, possibly free higher education and a call for Medicare for all. Now, courtesy of the global pandemic, our country has a record unemployment rate, with people struggling to live from paycheck to paycheck until bailouts of socialistic dimensions were proclaimed. And yet the needs of the homeless, the hungry and the forgotten remain largely unmet. What Dr. King failed to foresee was that in the world’s richest country, handing public health services over to profiteers or allowing health care to become a for-profit business forced many hapless people to die while languishing in isolation. As history shows, an almost inevitable outcome of economic disaster is the hunt for a scapegoat. Once again, racism readily foots the bill. In typical Hollywood style, incidents are sensationalized by reducing them to the simplistic “good guys” vs. the “bad guys.” In this case, given the deeply entrenched abyss of institutionalized racism, it is “police brutality” vs. the “Black Lives Matter” movement. As gut wrenching as the image of a law enforcement officer executing the very person he is supposed to protect is, it merely reflects the tip of the iceberg. In fact, it is tacitly endorsed by the nation’s powerbrokers, who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. The Black man’s ordained “role” is to be “grateful” for his station in life. Despite

significant upward mobility due to the Civil Rights movement, he is stereotyped as the backbone of a permanent underclass, consumed by poverty, mired in undesirable housing, oppressed by joblessness, challenged by poor educational opportunities and the victim of second-rate health care. Therefore, he “naturally” turns to drugs, which leads to gangsterism and culminates in Black-on-Black violence and an ensuing disproportionate level of incarceration. This

stereotype’s relentless reinforcement breeds self-doubt, frustration, despair and rage. Perhaps the unkindest cut of all is that the Black community’s agenda is upended every time a new ethnic group is deemed a greater threat. This does not apply to the Native Americans, who were portrayed as heathens in desperate need of “salvation” and forced to give up most of their land just to stay alive, even if their almost complete extermination was the price to pay. For Black Africans, the stigma of slavery paved the way for demonization to contempt, for disrespect to tokenism. Then came the Chinese, who were imported to build our railroads. Despite relentless bigotry, however, they could open businesses. After them came other perils: how to treat Japanese-American


citizens during WW2, the influx of the less-than-desirable Europeans and the Jews, which created the new anti-Semitism that demanded immediate zero tolerance. The latest member of these “existential threats” is the mainstreaming of Islamophobia with its claims of “maniacal terrorists.” Now, it’s open season for pan-xenophobia. But for Blacks, humiliation doesn’t end there. Every time a new socioeconomic issue arises — abortion rights, gay rights, samesex marriage, LGBTQ rights, gun ownership rights, along with the spending of obscene amounts on the military, the conquest of space and nuclear arms — their agenda is pushed to the backburner. Environmental devastation is allowed to continue, and the inner cities and national infrastructure are left to rot. Blacks, along with other discriminated-against minorities and the hitherto comfortable White middle class, need to recognize that the current system favors only the 2% of Americans who make up the elite. To be accorded our full constitutional rights, which mandates a social safety net for everyone, we have to form a coalition beyond the cliché “We’re all in this together.” Covid-19 has exposed the inequity of unadulterated profiteering, whose success is gauged by the stock market rather than the real income of those with full time jobs. Whether we like it or not, the “bailouts” were active acts of “socialism,” which is disparaged in the same breath as the unrelenting virus that has become an indispensable strand in our country’s post-pandemic fabric. “The basic ideas of socialism took root in the great world religions... For socialism means, most basically, social justice, human moral decency, institutions and social practices based on love and compassion” (John Hicks 2004). We can refer to it as “social democracy,” “democratic capitalism” or “democratic socialism” in the best Nordic and German traditions. Covid-19 has given humanity a wake-up call that it’s time to find a way to balance the best of the “free market” with security for all. The “militarism” personified by police brutality is sensationalized to portray all law enforcement officers as hostile to people of color, except insofar as the powerful see

Standing Together Against Injustice self-preservation and progress in their ongoing militarization. Transforming our society into a compassionate and just one based on some form of democratic socialism will take more than a generation. In the interim, we must not squander our universal goodwill on confronting frivolous false flag operations. Humanity’s only viable choice is to reach out to one another with unconditional reconciliation.

BUT FOR BLACKS, HUMILIATION DOESN’T END THERE. EVERY TIME A NEW SOCIOECONOMIC ISSUE ARISES — ABORTION RIGHTS, GAY RIGHTS, SAMESEX MARRIAGE, LGBTQ RIGHTS, GUN OWNERSHIP RIGHTS, ALONG WITH THE SPENDING OF OBSCENE AMOUNTS ON THE MILITARY, THE CONQUEST OF SPACE AND NUCLEAR ARMS — THEIR AGENDA IS PUSHED TO THE BACKBURNER. In the words of Pope Francis I, “The way we understand each other is built upon the foundation of mutual respect. What we are called to respect in each person is first of all his life, his physical integrity, his dignity and the rights deriving from that dignity, his reputation, his property, his ethnic and cultural identity, his ideas and his political choices. We are therefore called to think, speak and write respectfully of the other, not only in his presence, but always and everywhere” (August 2013). The silver lining to Covid-19’s cloud is the multiracial, intergenerational and socially diverse global protests, all of which are based on Maya Angelou’s simple premise, “We are more alike, my friend, than we are unalike!”  ih Dr. Abdul Cader Asmal, a retired physician who has been an ISNA member at large since the 1980s, is a past president of the Islamic Council of New England. He was a director of Inter-Religious Center for Public Life, is a board member of the Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries and serves on the Needham Clergy Association and the Human Rights’ Committee.


On May 1, 1992, Rodney King, a Black man who experienced police violence first hand, asked “Can we all just get along?” His question remains unanswered … BY ABOOBAKER EBRAHIM


ur hearts are breaking over the tragic and senseless killings of George Floyd on the streets of Minneapolis, Ahmaud Arbery on the streets of Georgia, Breonna Taylor in her own bed in Kentucky and other Black men and women. As Muslim Americans, another community that is profiled and discriminated against, we share in the national grief and outrage over such brutality against Black Americans. Tragically, these are just the most recent examples of a horrific history of people of color in this country. I was raised in apartheid South Africa. In 1974, the UN declared this government-imposed system of discrimination, racial injustice and separation based on skin color a crime against humanity. As a non-White individual, I have firsthand experience with being dehumanized by man-made rules. The systematic and structural racism embedded deep within the apartheid system is once again rearing its ugly head in the U.S. While this country doesn’t have an officially legislated policy of apartheid, far too many disparities exist everywhere and in all spheres, be it justice, economics, the inner cities, redlining, poor housing, inequality in education and health care, mass incarcerations, prison systems or police brutality. Then there is political rhetoric, discriminatory policies and legislation, such as the “Muslim Ban,” not to mention the media and disinformation campaigns that continually seek to divide and cause racial tension. The history of racial inequality and economic injustice in the U.S. has created ongoing challenges for all Americans, and

more must be done to advance our collective goal of equal justice for all. After the end of apartheid, South Africa set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC; https://www.justice., a court-like restorative justice body. Identified victims of gross human rights violations and police brutality were invited to relate their experiences. Some were selected for public hearings. The perpetrators could also testify and request amnesty from both civil and criminal prosecution. The aim was to ensure that the lessons learned from apartheid South Africa’s transition to democracy were taken into account as the nation moved ahead. Perhaps the U.S. should convene its own TRC under the Senate Judiciary Committee or a similar body and conduct such hearings. Twenty-five years ago, South Africa’s TRC set the gold standard for how a divided society with a violent past might work through that past and move forward. While inspiring similar efforts around the world, it has learned over time that working through a complicated past takes — and is still taking — time. However, it did open up a way to talk about the individual and systemic wrongs committed under 43 years of apartheid. Certainly, publicly confronting the truth about our history is the first step toward recovery and reconciliation among all parties. Muslim Americans, for whom justice and equity are enshrined in the Quran, have a special obligation to demand that we do better and actively work together toward a more just and compassionate nation, one free of the discrimination and hatred

OPINION that continue to plague this country. As a community, we must commit to advancing justice, inclusion, diversity, love and compassion for each other, especially since we are cognizant of the fact that these principles form an integral part of our belief system. To all of our fellow citizens — We stand with you during this difficult time and deeply value each and every one of you and your contributions to this great nation. The Declaration of Independence declared that: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and pursuit of Happiness.”

All of the above documents refer to noble actions and guidance. So why are we not adhering to them? We should strive to become an indivisible nation, one that ensures equality and espouses justice and the inclusive concepts of liberty and justice for all — to all men and women of all races and colors. This battle for hearts and minds must continue. One of Islam’s core tenets is that all humans are equal regardless of skin color, race, tribe, origin or creed. Given this fact, Muslims cannot be silent; rather, we must stand in solidarity with those demanding justice. Perhaps the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi

ONE OF ISLAM’S CORE TENETS IS THAT ALL HUMANS ARE EQUAL REGARDLESS OF SKIN COLOR, RACE, TRIBE, ORIGIN OR CREED. GIVEN THIS FACT, MUSLIMS CANNOT BE SILENT; RATHER, WE MUST STAND IN SOLIDARITY WITH THOSE DEMANDING JUSTICE. Quran 49:13 proclaims: “O humanity! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).” As Nelson Mandela reminded us 56 years ago from the dock on April 20, 1964, during the Rivonia Trial, which lasted from Oct. 9, 1963 to June 12, 1964: “During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal, which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” The preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a milestone document in the history of human rights, states: “Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world…” and continues in Article 1, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

wa sallam) made his most noteworthy statement on anti-racism during his Last Sermon in 632: “All humanity is from Adam and Eve. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab have any superiority over an Arab. Also, a White person has no superiority over a Black person, nor does a Black person have any superiority over White person, except by piety and good action.” This message is especially important now in the U.S. Al-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X) reflected on the Prophet’s message of universal brother/sisterhood. After completing the hajj, he realized that all races could live in peace and harmony, began following the Prophet’s anti-racism teachings and started preaching friendship and inclusivity. For us, El-Shabazz is another role model for the anti-racism movement. Injustice and racialism in those lands where military and police brutality is rampant against unarmed and defenseless populations flash across our TV screens on a daily basis. This reality must change, and a solution must be found and implemented. The recent occurrences of police brutality in Minneapolis and other cities transcend politics. “Man’s inhumanity to Man” has reached unacceptable levels. Therefore, it is time for all of us to take a stand so that we may unite with each other based upon our common humanity. That is our challenge today.  ih Aboobaker Ebrahim, LLM, a lifetime ISNA member, is a former board member of the Islamic Association of North Texas.


Cultural Diversity:

Are all children being exposed to m age so that they can see themselve diversity as the norm? BY WA’QAAR A MIRZA


n recent months, with the Black Lives Matter movement gaining traction, the subject of diversity and inclusion has been making headlines, spotlighting the need for change and bringing to the fore previously subdued voices. However, will we see any real change in the education and entertainment industries, or is it all just more lip service to pacify the “noble activists”? The lack of culturally diverse content is nothing new — from tokenistic preschool programs that children watch at home, to history textbooks spinning heroic tales of colonization justifying how the “discovered” Indigenous people were no better than animals. Are we finally seeing a realization in the Western world of how education surrounding the 18th century has negatively impacted cultural differences, not only through history but also to the current day? Are we looking at another era of monumental change? With statues being toppled and misconceptions changing, history is indeed being challenged once again. We are seeing historical recognition that the “newly discovered people” by European settler colonists and their descendants were victims of commercial exploitation, not “animals” as they were portrayed. If our predecessors had been honest, we might have been spared all of these issues we see in the world today. Growing up in the U.K., I was taught how Britain set out to “educate” different cultures around the world, where we were made to believe these people were not equal to us. These lies have been

: An Honest Truth

multiple cultures from a very early es represented positively and accept perpetuated throughout the Western world and taught for generations. So many undeserving people have been celebrated throughout history, with many more deserving ones receiving no recognition at all. Not many people know of the fabulously wealthy Prince Mansa Musa, the tenth Mansa of the Mali Empire. With an indescribable wealth, estimated to be multiple times more than Warren Buffet, Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos, he remains unrecognized throughout history. Is this due to his ethnic background? (See Mohamud, N. (2019), “The richest man who ever lived” world-africa-47379458).

given the opportunity to watch and identify with a truly diverse cast of characters. While attempts to deliver inclusive content have been made, it is often portrayed with inauthentic tokenistic characters, not the people they represent. Many of our children are growing up in mixed-culture families and socializing with multiple ethnicities and religious groups. We are seeing change being called for on our streets and pledges of change being made nationwide. Now is the time to take real action and demand fundamental change across all media outlets. Broadcasters are responsible for meeting the need for real culturally diverse and value-based content that supports our children’s learning and education. However, they are wary, rather than unwilling, when it comes to real culturally diverse representation. The fear of “getting it wrong” leads many to create content that utilizes non-human characters to represent

MANY PEOPLE DON’T REALIZE THAT RACISM STARTS IN THE LIVING ROOM, THROUGH OUR ENVIRONMENTS AND THE PROGRAMMED CONTENT THAT FILLS OUR SCREENS. CHILDREN, FROM A VERY EARLY AGE, NEED TO BE INTRODUCED TO DIVERSITY AS A NORMAL CONCEPT. SADLY, THERE IS A MASSIVE LACK OF CULTURALLY RICH CONTENT IN MATERIAL DESIGNED AND DIRECTED TOWARDS CHILDREN. The education system and the way we are brought up has created a prejudice, reinforced in school because we had to defend our status and position in the world. No one corrected us. These historical lies have led to a great deal of suffering and incited racism amongst the masses. In order to change this institutional racism, we must present an accurate version of history and teach diversity openly and honestly. This should start before children even go to school. Many people don’t realize that racism starts in the living room, through our environments and the programmed content that fills our screens. Children, from a very early age, need to be introduced to diversity as a normal concept. Sadly, there is a massive lack of culturally rich content in material designed and directed toward them. Broadcasters must begin to understand their vital role in shaping the minds of these future generations. Children need to be

“diversity and inclusion.” But all children should be exposed to multiple cultures from a very early age so that they can see themselves represented positively and accept diversity as the norm. This desire led the London-based Safi Productions to create Zayn and Zayna’s Little Farm, which will soon begin airing on Muslim Kids TV with new episodes every month. Created by educational experts, it focuses on a Muslim family, introduces diverse characters and portrays a cultural mix as everyday normality. Its website ( also has games, books and exclusive content. An interactive app is available at The App Store and Google Play store, Instagram at @Zaynandzaynas, Facebook and Twitter at @ZaynandZaynas.  ih Wa’qaar A. Mirza, a British entrepreneur with over 30 years experience in direct response marketing strategy, is CEO and founder of Zayn and Zayna’s Little Farm and cofounder and global CEO of Safi Ideas (

How School Shootings Affect Students’ Mental Health “10 years. 180 school shootings. 356 victims.” – CNN, July 2019 BY REHAM FAHAD


s we’re all working in class, we hear a shrill siren screeching over the school’s PA system. By now, we all recognize the sound immediately and head to our places. We crouch by cabinets and huddle close together while our teacher locks the door. We’ve reached the year’s third school shooter drill, and it’s only December. It’s now routine for our entire school to get into place after barricading doors and switching off the lights. Some students joke about the situation, but most, including myself, are anxious. Even after the staff informs us that it’s a drill, the thought of this someday being a reality is truly terrifying. For some, these drills are a way to get out of classwork. However, students like me see it as preparation for the moment such an event becomes a reality. The thought of being trapped in a building with a shooter is scary enough in itself. And when the school district repeatedly practices intruder drills, it means there is a high chance that this will occur. The increasing number of mass shootings is a stressful thought, and having constant drills to remind us of this adds to the stress we already face. Some days we wake up feeling nervous, not knowing if we’ll make it back home alive. The New York Times, in its July 5 report titled “Chicago Gun Violence Spikes and Increasingly Finds the Youngest Victims” reported that “nine children under 18 have been killed since June 20 [2020] as Chicago reels from another wave of gun violence.” In short, nine children were shot dead in less than 15 days. Looking at these statistics, both adults and children realize that there is no truly safe public space. Many supremacists of all religions typically target temples, churches, mosques and similar establishments. Now with school shooters, even places of education no longer feel safe. ISLAMIC HORIZONS   57


OPINION The intruder drills may prepare us, but they also feed our fear and despair. In some situations, survivors of earlier violence may experience a resurfacing of panic, because the drills can cause them to remember how they had felt then. They can also make people feel trapped, like they’re drowning in their own memories. These drills are good for our safety but not for our mental health, for they negatively affect child survivors of violence and may end up adding to their trauma.

school and acknowledging the fact that I could die from a shooter shouldn’t be deemed as a normal danger when going to a place of education. When I went to visit family in Ireland, the conversation of shooter drills came up. I asked my cousins if they had these drills in their schools. They looked at me in shock and said, ‘No.’ Shooter drills aren’t normal, and American school children are taught that their lives are less important than the ‘American right’ to own a firearm.”

WHEN I WENT TO VISIT FAMILY IN IRELAND, THE CONVERSATION OF SHOOTER DRILLS CAME UP. I ASKED MY COUSINS IF THEY HAD THESE DRILLS IN THEIR SCHOOLS. THEY LOOKED AT ME IN SHOCK AND SAID, ‘NO.’ SHOOTER DRILLS AREN’T NORMAL, AND AMERICAN SCHOOL CHILDREN ARE TAUGHT THAT THEIR LIVES ARE LESS IMPORTANT THAN THE ‘AMERICAN RIGHT’ TO OWN A FIREARM.” While schools do prepare students for the worst, it doesn’t eliminate the fact that people will continue to put children’s safety at risk. Instead of school administrators and law enforcement asking “How can we keep our students safe when there is an active shooter?” they should look at the issue from a new perspective, focus on the source and find effective ways to help improve our mental health and keep us from feeling despair and loneliness. reports that “78% of school shooters had a history of suicide attempts or suicidal ideations prior to their attack.” With more mental health awareness and care, the numbers of school shootings can drop drastically and help keep students safer. According to, “1,500 children are shot and killed each year.” While many government and law enforcement agencies work to keep the general public safe during active shooter emergencies, they may arrive too late to prevent casualties. The easiest way to minimize these emergencies is to tighten gun laws. The same source continues, “On average, fewer people die from gun violence in states with strong gun laws and more people die in states with weak gun laws.” Tightening gun laws will allow those who need a gun to feel safe to have access to them, while preventing the wrong people from having easy access to them. The jury is still out as to these drills’ effectiveness. Cecilia Burke, 14, of Naperville North High School, Ill., says, “Going to

Burke says that while drills do help keep students safe, such exercises should never reach a point where they can be viewed as a “normal.” The constant reminders that students can be killed at any moment in places of education negatively effects their mental well-being, she says. Although students like her agree that these drills have negative side effects, others believe they are for the best. Connor Ciske, 14, a high school student in Lombard, Ill., states, “School Shooter drills are just like earthquake drills. These are very real situations we all have to prepare for to improve safety and well-being for us and those around us.” But while Connor does make a strong point, is it fair to ask if our methods are working if they put the students’ mental health at risk? Both weaker gun laws and a lack of mental health support and awareness are major contributors to the alarming increase in gun violence and school shootings. Putting tighter laws on gun ownership and working to improve basic mental health can be extremely successful in ending frequent school shootings. Hundreds of thousands of lives can be saved by implementing these changes in our approach to gun violence incidents. The thought of being in a school shooting is absolutely frightening. However, we, as a society, can all step up by helping to make these changes and improving the safety of the general public.  ih Reham Fahad, 14, is student at Naperville Central High School in Illinois.


Muslim American Views on Organ Donation A religiously tailored intervention project focuses on the permissibility of living and deceased organ donations BY MEGAN CRAIG


t is unclear how many Muslims in the U.S. await organ transplants because the government doesn’t keep transplantation statistics based on religion. For example, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health does issue a report on “Organ Donation and African Americans,” and its February 2020 report said that they make up the largest minority in need of an organ transplant. But Muslim Americans are ethnically a very diverse community. What’s even less clear is whether it’s religiously permissible for Muslims to donate organs. In a recent study, “Informing American Muslims about Organ Donation (I AM a LD): A Randomized Controlled Cross-Over Trial Evaluating the Effect of Religiously Tailored Health Education” (2020), a team led by Dr. Aasim Padela, a researcher, bioethicist and emergency medicine doctor at the University of Chicago, attempted to address this uncertainty. As director of the university’s Initiative on Islam and Medicine, Padela’s career has focused on the intersection of community health and religion, and his research has largely centered on health behavior changes for Muslim patients. After looking into other organ donation-focused interventional education programs, Padela identified a common issue: the overt promotion and one-sided presentations that show only those arguments that favor such donations from both religious and medical perspectives. However, such programs — held during the past few decades both at home and abroad — hadn’t significantly changed participants’ ideas or behaviors. Thus, Padela’s team took a different approach — creating a partnership among medical, organ donation and health

education organizations. The study, conducted over several months, included presentations at mosques in Chicagoland and the Washington, D.C., area. Instead of presenting only the relevant information in a positive light, educators highlighted both the pros and cons of living and deceased donation from the religious and medical perspectives. Question-and-answer periods and peer-led discussion aimed to foster participants’ understanding of all sides of the issue. “If people feel manipulated, like they’re being given only half the information, that tends to backfire,” explained Dr. Michael Quinn, a social psychologist who worked with Padela to create the study. He said people can better recall information when they feel they’ve been given the chance to make choices based on all of the available information. The team’s strategy worked. Initial study data shows that participants increased their understanding of the relevant medical information and Islamic perspectives and, after the educational sessions, felt more prepared to make such decisions for themselves and their loved ones.

FOR THE COMMUNITY, BY THE COMMUNITY By collaborating with people doing grassroots outreach and holding educational sessions inside mosques, the research team hoped to make the study’s participants feel at ease while learning the material. A community advisory board of mosque leaders and health advocates helped the team think through its two-sided approach and identify the best speakers for the religious part of the education sessions. “I think the fact that we held these workshops in a mosque setting and had permission of mosque leadership allowed people to put some faith in us,” Quinn said. “We still had doctors and people from the Kidney Foundation talk about their areas of specialty, but they did this in the context of going into the community, of being there, of being part of that system.” The community advisory board also identified candidates for an important part of the study: peer education. People are more likely to open up to peer educators than to medical professionals, because those peers have the same cultural background — “They’re known, and they’re trusted,” Quinn noted.

The Donation Process: What Can Be Donated?






Bone & Tissues




The peer educators weren’t there to persuade participants to think a certain way about organ donation; instead, they allowed open, non-judgmental discussions about the potential benefits and costs of this procedure from all perspectives. “The more people could discuss it, the more they could elaborate on their ideas, the better they would be able to retain that information and use it faithfully down the road,” Quinn said.

TAKING INFORMATION INTO A DIVERSE COMMUNITY Despite commonalities among many believers, “religions are not monolithic,” stated Susan Cochran, an after-care specialist for

donor families with Gift of Hope Organ and Tissue Donor Network (https://www. in Illinois. Cochran works with families who have lost loved ones and donated their organs. And because she holds a master’s degree in religion, Cochran also works with the organization’s Interfaith Advisory Council, a group of religious representatives that seeks to help Gift of Hope better support families and medical professionals. Cochran helped develop the presentations used in the study. After stating that religions contain diverse sects, beliefs, foundational theologies and familial influences, Cochran said, “People’s identities are multifaceted; they aren’t just Muslim, they’re also brothers, spouses, medical professionals, government officials. We’ve found it much more useful to affirm the diversity within identity among these groups.” Moreover, “It’s much more helpful to educate a population about organ and tissue donation from a point of cultural and religious humility.” Such an approach makes it nearly impossible for groups like Gift of Hope to make blanket statements about what religions teach when talking with families about organ donation. After all, few people appreciate being told what they believe by an outsider. Padela hopes the educational intervention helped at least some participants who were struggling to answer questions about this procedure’s religious permissibility. Participants are more prepared now to make such decisions and are more likely to seek out and understand different religious perspectives on the issue. They’ll also share their newfound knowledge with other community members, thereby allowing it to have an effect beyond the confines of the study. “Kindness and respect and open conversation carry a lot of power,” Cochran said. “When you show a community respect and give them information, they’re able to make powerful decisions for themselves and their family.”  ih Megan Craig is a freelance reporter and editor based in Syracuse, N.Y., who also teaches reporting and journalism ethics classes at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. In 2011, she donated her left kidney. [Editor’s note: The author was involved in the aforementioned research study funded by Grant #R39OT31104 “Informing American Muslims about Living Donation” [PI: Padela] from the Health Resources and Services Administration, as former director of programs at the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois.]




President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump are cheered and welcomed by crowds, Feb. 24, along the motorcade route in Ahmedabad, India

BETWEEN VIRUS AND VIOLENCE: The Horror of Being Muslim in India India’s state-sanctioned Islamophobia has singled out the country’s 201 million Muslims and scapegoated them as disseminators of coronavirus BY KHALED BEYDOUN


wo weeks after Donald Trump’s visit to New Delhi, the ascending Indian public intellectual Rana Ayyub asked, “What is left for a virus to kill in a morally corrupt nation?” As the pandemic ravaged Iran and Italy, and ripped into nation after nation between and beyond, the Indian capital was besieged by a different kind of homegrown pandemic, concocted by none other than the nation’s prime minister, Narendra Modi. Modi’s meeting with Trump in late February displayed all the grandiose pageantry of two egomaniacs, and incited the ongoing Delhi riots to reach an ever higher fever pitch. Buoyed by the meeting of the world’s two leading Islamophobe-in-Chiefs, mobs of Hindutva extremists stormed Delhi neighborhoods populated by Muslims and proceeded to burn down homes, destroy and desecrate mosques, and kill Muslims and those who sought to protect them.

The Delhi riots claimed the lives of 60 people, 47 of whom were Muslims. One of them was an 85-year-old woman who was tied up and lit on fire by a mob that chanted “Jai Shri Ram,” a common Hindutva slogan, as she burned to death. Modi, in the form of state-sponsored Islamophobia and the mob violence his policies and proclamations embolden, spread this pandemic of violence that has gripped India, most tightly in its capital city, strategically over the course of years. The banner of “Hindutva nationalism,” which holds India to be the home exclusively



for Hindus, was rapidly infecting the nation’s majority Hindu population and, in turn, exposing its 201 million Muslims to unspeakable horror. It seemed that Indian Islamophobia, and the climax of vigilante violence that gripped Delhi for weeks, had reached its limit; however, it was soon superseded by a new turn of events. As the Covid-19 pandemic hit the headlines and the coronavirus claimed the lives of thousands, Hindutva leaders saw an opportunity to further justify their persecution of Indian Muslims: blame its spread in India on Muslims. During March 1-15, Tablighi Jamaat — a Muslim missionary organization — held its annual conference in New Delhi. The gathering, attended by Muslims from around the world, met at Tablighi’s Markaz headquarters in the south Delhi neighborhood of Nizamuddin. The event had been planned months in advance and converged with growing concern within India about the domestic spread of the coronavirus. The state had not yet issued a lockdown, and Tablighi Jamaat — and religious gatherings from other faith groups — continued without interruption. However, the ire of the popular media — and the extremist mobs that ripped through the city that hosted the Muslim conference — found a convenient scapegoat for the domestic spread of Covid-19: Muslims. Not just the organizers of the Tablighi conference and the 2,000 attendees, but the whole of the Muslim population in India. All 201 million Muslims were instantly singled out and scapegoated as disseminators of the coronavirus in India. News headlines ran with the story that the Tablighi conference was the source of the national Covid-19 outbreak. In swift order, Hindutva nationalists took to social media, dubbing the virus “Corona Jihad” and the “Muslim Virus.” These labels were accompanied by vile caricatures of Muslims spitting on bystanders and physicians, and doctored videos of Muslims disobeying stay at home orders. Instead of criticizing the conference organizers, blame for the virus’ spread was assigned to any and every Muslim in the country. Even Muslims thousands of miles from Delhi, and those not associated with the Hanafi school of thought subscribed to by Tablighi Jamaat, were singled out. However, the facts mean little when fear mongering takes precedence. A novel strain

STAYING AT HOME AND SOCIAL DISTANCING FOR MUSLIMS IN INDIA MAY BE A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH” and design of Islamophobic persecution and scapegoating in India was firmly in place. It was established upon a bedrock of constitutional amendments that deny naturalized citizenship to Muslim immigrants and

legislation designed to strip citizenship from undocumented Muslim citizens. Chinesestyle detention and internment camps exist in Assam, and in cities and villages throughout the country Hindutva mobs with weapons in hand and blood in their eyes are doing the violent bidding of their beloved prime minister. The days ahead, when state violence and the spreading virus will converge to inflict unspeakable violence against Muslims, will be the darkest. Staying at home and social distancing for Muslims in India may be a matter of life and death. Not just because of the virus that has much of the entire world confined and quarantined, but because of a more ominous and deadly pandemic – Indian Islamophobia, and the rabid mobs infected by a hateful disease that has no imminent vaccine.  ih Khaled A. Beydoun, assistant professor of law at the Barry School of Law, is author of the critically acclaimed book, “American Islamophobia: Understanding the Roots and Rise of Fear” (University of California Press, 2018). He sits on the United States Commission for Civil Rights. [Reprinted with the author’s permission. Originally published: comment/2020/4/17/between-virus-and-violencebeing-muslim-in-india]


of the Hindutva menace was now underway, capitalizing on the national anxiety around a global pandemic that bore the face of a relentlessly persecuted and pummeled people: India’s Muslims. Blaming Muslims for the spread of Covid19 is a vile step, even for Hindu nationalists and supremacists bent on ridding the nation of a faith group it casts as “termites,” “terrorists,” and unwanted foreigners and, at best, “guests” in a nation that is not their own. Yet, events since the rise of Modi and his controlling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2014 signal that it is anything but a surprise. Morality, and anything that resembles it in relation to the state’s relationship with the nation’s Muslim minority, has been entirely cast out in favor of a revitalized caste system that places Hindus on top and Muslims at the very bottom. For Modi and his swelling following, Indian identity is a matter of “blood and soil.” A phrase used by White supremacists in Europe and the United States, and in India by Hindu supremacists who view India — despite its unrivaled religious diversity — as the exclusive homeland for Hindus. The Covid-19 virus and pandemic was unexpected, but the existing architecture


NEW RELEASES Muslims and Christians Debate Justice and Love David L. Johnston 2020. Pp. 202. HB. $100.00. PB. $32.00. eBook. $32.00 Equinox Publishing (U.K.), Bristol, Conn. ohnston explains the concept of primary justice — what it means and how it can be grounded in the inalienable rights that each human being possesses. In writing this, he drew inspiration from philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff and the Common Word Letter, a groundbreaking Islamic initiative of 2007 addressed by 138 eminent Muslim scholars and clerics to Pope Benedict XVI and all Christian leaders. This document affirmed that both Judaism and Christianity’s two highest commandments are also at the heart of the Islamic tradition — love of God and love of neighbor. Each of his seven chapters begins with a case study, thereby emphasizing that justice must be embodied in righteous social, political and economic practices. Along the way, leading contemporary scholars and activists from both traditions urge the reader — Muslim, Christian, or whatever — to look afresh at an age-old conundrum: How do justice and love interact so as to create a world in which everyone finds his or her rightful place?


The Humanity of Muhammad: A Christian View Craig Considine 2020. Pp. 165. HB. $16.75 Blue Dome Books, Clifton, N.J. ice University professor Craig Considine, an American Catholic, provides a sociological analysis of the Prophet’s teachings and example. He shows how the Prophet embraced religious pluralism, envisioned a civic nation, opposed racism, advocated the search for knowledge, initiated women’s rights in his region and followed the Golden Rule. Considine, who wrote this book to build stronger bridges of understanding between Christians and Muslims, discusses an aspect of the Prophet that is often overlooked and forgotten in mainstream depictions and media narratives. This book adds to the ever-growing body of literature on one of history’s most important human beings.


Shaheen Bagh and the Idea of India Seema Mustafa, ed. 2020. Pp. 288. Kindle. $5.99 Speaking Tiger Books LLP n Dec. 15, 2019, Indian police in riot gear stormed Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia University and attacked students protesting the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), which makes religion a factor in obtaining citizenship. In neighboring Shaheen Bagh, their mothers, relatives and friends rallied to demand its repeal. The CAA, when twinned with the National Register of Citizens, could make India’s Muslims aliens in their own homeland. Within days, similar protests broke out nationwide. Modern India had never seen anything like it. This book examines how the sit-in by a small group of Muslim women — many of whom had gone outside unaccompanied for the first time ever — united millions of Indians of all faiths and ideologies to defend their constitutionally granted rights of liberty, equality and secularism. It also raises many important questions: Can the protests reverse the damage done to Indian democracy in recent years? How did this nonviolent movement sustain itself despite the Modi regime’s vilification, threats and persecution? Is this the beginning of new solidarities within Indian society? Will it survive the aftermath of the communal violence that devastated northeast Delhi in February 2020 and the witch-hunt launched under cover of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown? This necessary collection comprises interviews with some of the brave women at the core of the protests, on-the-ground reports and photographs by journalists. Students of India’s democracy and its future are strongly advised to read this publication, the first one to deal with one of modern India’s most important civil rights movements.



City Schools and the American Dream 2: The Enduring Promise of Public Education Pedro A. Noguera and Esa Syeed 2020. Pp. 192. HB. $84.00. PN. $27.95. Kindle $15.37 Teachers College Press, New York, N.Y. espite the rhetoric and many reform initiatives, urban schools continue to struggle under the weight of serious challenges. What went wrong and is there hope for future change? More than a new edition, this sequel to the original bestseller has been substantially revised to include insights from new research, recent demographic trends and emerging political realities. In addition to surveying the various limitations that urban schools face, the book also highlights programs, communities and schools that are making good on public education’s promise of equity. It provides a clear-eyed vision of what it will take to ensure the success of city schools and their students. Book Features: surveys persistent and emerging challenges in urban education; synthesizes the latest education research in a way that is accessible to a wide audience, including teachers, students, administrators, parents, and community partners; and focuses on solutions, highlighting new develop­ ments and opportunities for achieving educational equity despite ongoing political challenges.


Growing Up an American Muslim Army Brat Julde Ball 2019. Pp. 523. PB. $19.99. Kindle. $9.99 Self-published Go back to your country! You do not belong here in the United States because you’re a terrorist!” Harsh statements like these have been directed toward Julde (Jul-DAY), a former U.S. Army brat. These statements began only after she began wearing the hijab in 2014. Her family, just like many other American families, suffered the aftermath of 9/11, especially because her father joined a continual war for six-months every year. Many people do not view Muslims as being equally threatened by 9/11, provided that the ongoing “war on terror” is understood as a war against Islam. However, this view is mistaken, because during the late 1990s Julde joined other Muslim military families on base to pray, eat iftar dinners and attend jumah services. The women in her family gradually stopped wearing their hijabs. At that moment, it seemed that being Muslim at heart was good enough. Julde acquired some of her basic knowledge of Islam from military wives who taught her to read Arabic, explained various Quranic narratives and offered valuable words of advice. Fitting in as a child was difficult, for she evidently didn’t celebrate the regular holidays. After classmates questioned this, she made an unexpected discovery: She is Muslim. This often led her to feel lonely as a U.S. Army brat — as if they didn’t already have enough obstacles, like changing their neighborhood, schools and friends every few years. As an adult and despite being cursed out, pushed, kicked or ignored, Julde continues to wear her hijab on the grounds that this is her country as well as that of the many other Muslim Americans who look like her. She hopes that her story can help change existing negative realities.

Wisdom from the Quran: Essays in a Contemporary Context Nilofar Ahmed 2020. Pp. 355. Amazon PB. $18.00. Kindle. $9.99 Independently Published. arlier, shorter versions of the essays contained in “Wisdom from the Quran” were published in the Pakistani newspaper Dawn, which helped it acquire a wider international readership. Readers found answers to difficult questions, as the author makes serious scholarship easily accessible. Each section touches upon controversial themes and brings many of Islam’s spiritual and theological concepts, legal arguments, social and gender ethics to the fore. It also serves as a good reference book, for Quran and Hadith citations are given for each topic discussed. This collection would be of interest to Muslim as well as non-Muslim readers of all ages.  ih


The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) P.O. Box 38 • Plainfield, IN 46168-0038


Articles inside

New Releases

pages 62-64

Muslim American Views on Organ Donation

pages 58-59

The Horror of Being Muslim in India

pages 60-61

Are School Shootings Good For A Student’s Mental Health?

page 57

Standing Together Against Injustice

pages 55-56

No, We're NOT all in This Together

page 54

Fake Hafez: How a Supreme Persian Poet of Love was Erased

pages 52-53

Jihad Against Hunger

pages 48-49

Tennessee Muslims Effectively

pages 50-51

Building an Identity

pages 44-45

Black Muslims in Canada

pages 46-47

An Overview of Social Services

pages 42-43

Nurturing Awe and Wonder

pages 40-41

The Al Rashid Mosque

pages 32-33

Muslim Canadians in the Coming Decade

pages 36-37

The Muslim Experience in Canada

pages 38-39

The Muslim Link

pages 29-30

Muslim Torontonians

pages 34-35

A Question of Identity

page 31

Ottawa Muslims Combat Covid-19

page 28

A Decade of Working Shoulder to Shoulder with Muslim Americans

pages 15-17

The Personal Journey to Sacred Knowledge

pages 8-9


pages 6-7

Muslims for Human Dignity: A Global Call

pages 20-21

The Muslim Communities of Canada

pages 24-27

The Lessons Muslim Americans Should Take from Rep. John Lewis

pages 18-19

The Struggle for Social and Racial Justice: A Moral Imperative

pages 22-23

Community Matters

pages 10-14
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