Most girls grew up singing in front of their bathroom mirrors and into their hairbrushes, in hopes of one day becoming famous singers. That childhood routine was somewhat different for me. After I finished brushing and tying my hair, I took up the role of a news anchor – the mirror being the camera. I went over every news event I recalled seeing or hearing about, from the day before, while watching the late-night newscast with my family. I usually included a line similar to this: “And now we have John reporting for us from the scene. John, how are the neighbours reacting?”
A few weeks ago, I completed a month-long international development seminar with the Aga Khan International Fellowship Program. Each year the program sends young Canadians to spend 8 months in either Africa or Asia to work with agencies and partners of the Aga Khan Development Network. I will be spending eight months in Cairo, Egypt working with the Aga Khan Foundation on various projects.
Mosques, much like libraries, are considered by many to be quiet and still places of reflection and contemplation, especially during prayer times. When the faithful attend the mosque, it is usually in the hopes of leaving behind the chaotic and noisy world outside in order to connect deeply with the Divine. That is, until an all too familiar sound of running footsteps, gleeful shrieking and the cries of a frustrated infant break the silence… We’ve all been there; trying to concentrate on the imam’s beautiful recitation despite a child singing the Spider-Man theme in the back of the room and unintentionally bringing you back to your favorite 90’s cartoon instead of the deep meaning of the Qur’anic verse being presently recited… Here are a few tips for parents like myself who would like to bring their child to the mosque, while conserving the peaceful atmosphere therein.
As a little girl, my choice for what I want to be when I grow up fluctuated frequently and often without warning, each time leaving me convinced that this new profession was my life’s calling. A surgeon, a mayor, a tennis player, an astronaut, a writer, a lawyer, and a human rights activist – the list was endless and populated with inspiration that came both from my surroundings and my parents’ continuous encouragement there really was nothing I couldn’t do.
On Saturday May 10th, close to 200 members of Ottawa’s Muslim community attended a screening of the documentary UnMosqued at Carleton University and stayed for the discussion that followed. Exploring the ways in which Muslim women, converts to Islam, and youth in their teens and twenties often feel unwelcome and alienated from their local mosques, the film asks critical questions about the future of the mosque as an institution in North American Muslim communities.
On June 15th, the Canadian Somali Mother’s Association honoured exceptional Somali fathers for their leadership within the community at the annual Father’s Day Celebration. Abdul Arale was one of the speakers at the event. Arale was widowed when his eldest child was just six and he went on to raise three daughters and one son as a single father.
Naceur and Lamia fled the political turmoil of Tunisia in the nineties and settled in Ottawa with their young family. Like many refugee fathers, Naceur faced the challenge of figuring out how to support his family on top of learning a new language and figuring out how to navigate a new country and culture. “My dad had no job when he first came to Canada. Then he finally found a job as a cleaner. He would find any way possible to get to his job. He even at a time walked on the highway in the freezing cold!” Zeinab shared.
“Say: travel through the land and observe how He began creation.” [29:20]
Sailing down the Nile River on my way to work in Aswan City, I stopped to reflect before the breathtaking scene unfolding before me: the empowering sun overbearing above, an uncompromising terrain spanning rugged mountains and winding sand dunes with quaint homes dotting in between. These banks were once home to the mighty Pharaohs and Kings of antiquity. I spent a moment to take in the majesty of one of the most spectacular cities I’ve ever visited…for the last time.
Palestinian Canadian Heba Khalil has lived with a fear of public-speaking since high school but is learning to become a confident communicator with the support of the University of Ottawa's Toastmasters' Club.