For new immigrants, the long painful road to settlement is historically marked by trepidation, adversity, and ultimately, triumph.
The Environics Institute is a non-profit founded in 2006 by Michael Adams, author of Unlikely Utopia, as a means to listen to unheard Canadian voices. Keith Neuman, the Institute's Executive Director, describes how Adams' interest in pluralism led him to respond to the Pew Research Centre's 2006 study of Muslims in Europe.
Undeterred by what is arguably a significant hurdle to the pleasures and experiences of daily life, Arshina Kassam, a twenty-six year old Muslim of African background wakes each morning charged with her faith in God and confidence in her own ability to navigate the logistics of living life virtually blind.
Arshina, a second year Masters student in the School of Social Work at Carleton University, was born in Tanzania with a congenital cataract in her left eye that was not diagnosed till she was a year old. Her family then moved to Toronto where she embarked upon a series of surgeries to extract the diseased lens but following a detachment of her retina, she was left completely blind in her left eye by age two.
Stroking the gnarled hands of an arthritic eighty-something pensioner, a young medical student overcomes her repugnance of old age, poor health and the fear of death to give a brief moment of herself to a woman sixty years her senior. In the twilight of her life this once vital personality has been reduced to sporadic contact with strangers who have become watchers over her.
A recent conversation with Dr. Aliaa Dakroury left my neurons firing in all directions, trying to forge the synaptic connections that would allow my brain to process the contributions of this exuberant dynamo of a woman.
It was twilight, when we long to draw the curtains and lull ourselves into an evening peace but two minutes into the conversation my heart was pumping with the same adrenalin that pulsed through her veins as she proclaimed the need for Muslim women in Canada to be visible and audible ambassadors of their faith.
Dr. Dakroury cannot be said to be tentative in her opinions. To her credit, she has passionately held convictions on the myriad roles that Muslim women should play in North America, or anywhere, for that matter.
The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), formerly known as the Council of American Islamic Relations-Canada (CAIR-CAN), hosted a community picnic on Saturday, July 6th at the Dovercourt Community Centre ”“ and before a crowd of over 300, re-affirmed its mission to foster civic engagement in the Muslim community.
Simultaneous events were held in Vancouver and Toronto, but Ottawa was fortunate to have the founder, Dr. Sheema Khan, attend to sketch a history of the organization from its humble roots in Montreal to its incorporation as a national civil liberties organisation in 2000.
In the dark days that followed September 11, 2001, as the precarious relationship between Islam and the West rapidly deteriorated, a diverse group of Muslim women from the Ottawa area gathered to confront the new reality of greater suspicion, mistrust, and scrutiny.
Confronted by openly hostile chatter in the media and on the street, this disparate collection of women united both by their faith and a fierce pride in their shared identity as Canadians, contemplated their options and deliberately declined to accept defeat by shuffling off, heads bowed, into the shadowy realm of the lost.