"With our last post, we marked the end of our Muslims of Ottawa photography project. We've come across twenty very extraordinary people, heard their challenges, sorrows and driving influences. The purpose of this project was simply to connect with Muslims in our local community and give back by simply revealing their humanity. We're so inundated with political and skewed social narratives, the fundamental building block of our community is obscured from view: you, the loving, salt-of-earth people that make up the Muslim community.
Whether it was Abu Ahmed talking about his love for his farm and Arabian horses, Bibi and her steadfast determination to not let any "disability" deter her from her love of education or Nicole sharing with us the very heartfelt story of the loss of her father – we learned that these people can be defined by no one other than themselves. And despite the diversity in the cross section of people we encountered, we observed some interesting commonalities such as a steadfast commitment to social justice, a deep and abiding appreciation for being Canadian, a love for family and most common, a strong belief in giving back to the wider community.
This was a deeply humbling and reflective experience for us and we're extremely grateful to have met these wonderful people and the opportunity to share their photographs and stories. Thanks to everyone for supporting this project, for your likes, comments and ideas. We're going to do our best to bring you more interesting and fun projects and hope we can continue to count on your support."
"I was born in Georgetown, Guyana. I have had Rheumatoid Arthritis since the age of 6 and was diagnosed at age 10. I grew up with a condition but it never held me back. I like studying and education – I have a degree in psychology, I'm continuing with another degree and I'm working full time in the government [laughing]! I'm pursuing my second degree in sociology and anthropology and I'm really enjoying it. I'm a strong advocate for education. I have never felt held back by my condition and I hope I can be an example for others. Like they say, if you put your mind to it, you can achieve anything!... Make sure you tell them that I'm a very independent person!"
“What I love about Canada is the human rights. People always respect each other. That’s why I’m so proud to be Canadian. Even more than Indonesian. I feel secure for my future. Especially for my kids.”
"The main thing is the crime. The sad thing for me to see is a neighbourhood I grew up in is always in the news for the wrong reasons, especially with names similar to mine. We need to be more proud of ourselves and fight for a better future rather than being known for terrorism around the world. We need to have more youth involvement and get our youth off the streets, doing more positive things, playing sports and representing our community in a better light."
"I grew up in a small, rural village in India. And at the time, education was not easily available. We had to struggle, walk long distances and work hard. Our parents supported us very much. And then, I made it to study at Aligarh Muslim College, a prestigious university in India, and the day before I graduated, my father died. It was so difficult because I had so many plans. I was always thinking of what was after my school so I could support and help them like they did for me in my education. It was very difficult.
When I left India, I was flying to New York City. This was my first time coming to North America. Sitting next to me was an American and an Irishmen. The plane was descending and we could see the cars on the streets as we came close to landing. They asked me what I thought about America. We hadn't landed yet and I had never been to America before but I saw that the cars were driving on the right side of the road. In India, the direction is from the left. So I told them, 'America is always right'!"
"I don’t know want to get political. I don’t like the mentality of my community. I was married young and divorced young. I felt ashamed, and traumatized about what society thought of me after that. I struggled a lot. But I finally came out of that phase, with God’s support. I feel like now I stand with confidence. Like, I’ve been divorced and I accept it. I mean, the Prophet married women who had been divorced. Now I walk into community events with a different mindset. I don’t care what people think anymore."
“Have you thought of re-marrying?”
“Maybe when I’m 40 [laughing]! I’m happy now, and I want to empower myself as a single individual first before even thinking about that.”
"We met at Brock University in residence in our first year. I thought he was Spanish or from some other country, definitely not from Singapore. And I was the only person there from Macao. Marriage has its moments. Its ups and downs. But now I really understand why marriage is half your faith. I love that he does all the groceries and has done most of the cooking for the last three years. Even after 30 years and all that I know [laughs], I wouldn’t change him."
"Growing up I was actually clinically shy. It wasn’t until high school when I attended a leadership workshop, that I was able to really harness my confidence, skills and communicate at a different level. Growing up as the eldest, as a second generation Pakistani-Canadian female, it was challenging. I think what’s helped has really been growing into and discovering my identity - to feel confident in my skin has been important to be able to do what I do and help others get there as well."
"Quite honestly, it's the peace and security. Knowing that our kids and our families are living in a safe place is what we can be thankful for. We lived through all the devastating wars. It's peace we are happy with." [translated from Arabic]