First Published in the National Post, May 11 2012 

Re: The Problem With Calling The Koran ‘Anti-Semitic,’ Jonathan Kay, May 8.

While I appreciate Jonathan Kay’s attempt to clarify the charge against the East End Madrassah, I disagree with his analysis of Islamic teachings. He conveniently declared that “Islam’s traditionally negative take on Jews is troubling” and drew analogies between the Christian view of homosexuality and Islam’s view of Judaism. This juxtaposition implies that Islam inherently preaches anti-Semitism and considers the Jewish faith a moral vice. The Koran uses the honorary term “People of the Book” to refer to the Jews due to the shared scriptural and prophetic heritage of the two faiths. It recognizes Judaism’s dietary laws and allows interreligious marriage with the faith too. The Prophet Muhammad had Jewish in-laws as well. Stories of generosity and good will between him and the Jews are too many to recount here.

The Koran is not anti-Semitic because calling it such would have to mean declaring the Bible homophobic also. It isn’t anti-Semitic because it doesn’t preach hate. Yes, it has phrases that reprimand ancient Jews for worshipping the Golden Calf, 7th-century Jews for breaking treaties and contains commandments relating to war. These are criticisms which are time restricted and don’t formulate an absolute moral judgment on the Jewish people. The problem lies not with Islam but those that teach it. The challenge for religious institutions is to be able teach scripture academically with its historical context, without projecting one’s own prejudices through it.

Waleed Ahmed, Mississauga, Ont.

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Updated piece, original post at  MuslimMatters

Well, they’ve done it once more. Niqab (face veil) wearing women have created national frenzy yet again. This time it was Minister of Citizenship and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenny, who sparked the controversy.

Effective immediately, he announced in early December, all niqabs are banned from the oath taking citizenship ceremony. Any niqab wearing Muslim woman wishing to become a Canadian citizen must remove the veil during the ceremony he stated. Kenny said that the niqab ‘reflects a certain view about women that we don’t accept inCanada’.

Minister Kenny also clarified that this isn’t just about the judge being able to see and validate the recital of the oath, “This is not simply a practical measure. It is a matter of deep principle that goes to the heart of our identity and our values of openness and equality”. The niqab obviously violates all that we hold sacred inCanadaaccording to Kenny.

So, what was the last time you heard of a woman refusing to take off the niqab before swearing the citizenship oath? Never. How many women even take the oath wearing a niqab? Probably an insignificant number. Neither Mr. Kenny nor his office could provide any statistics to back up the ban they so forcefully implemented. No one knew about this complaint up till the announcement of the ban. Clearly, this wasn’t a problem to begin with.

It is obvious that this ban is yet another sleazy bigoted move by the Conservatives to score political points and gain some short term popularity. By making inflammatory remarks about a minority group, they are appealing to our irrational fears and dividing us along the lines of race and religion. At a time when their government is under heavy criticism due to the withdrawal from Kyoto and the mess they created in Attawapiskat, playing the Muslim card is the best way out. Prime Minister Stephen Harper used similar tactics in September when he warned us all that the greatest threat to Canada was ‘Islamicism’ – whatever that is.

Regardless of the motivations behind it, the ban carries many implications. Firstly, it violates the democratic right to citizenship which is entitled to all that satisfy its prerequisites. Changing your dress code, which you adhere to religiously, is not a reasonable requirement in the least; even if it is just for the oath taking ceremony. No one should be barred from citizenship simply because of the way they dress up.

Disallowing the veil at a symbolic event like the citizenship ceremony sends a strong message that niqab wearing women are not welcome in Canada. For a country which fought hard to ensure that women have the freedom to dress as they please, this is a step backwards.

The ban further marginalizes a small minority of Muslim women and creates an ‘us verses them’ dichotomy. You can either be Canadian or a Niqabee – this is what the ban represents. It certainly flies flat in the face of the tolerant and welcoming society we aim to foster. As the Toronto Star aptly put it, the ban coerces Muslim women to fit into the mainstream – ‘behave and look just like us, or pay the price’. So much for the individualism we value.

This legislation is also extremely hypocritical for a country like Canada, which invadedAfghanistanwith the aim of liberating their women from the Taliban. The face veil is commonly worn amongst Afghan women, so one has to question why Canada feels the need to liberate these women inAfghanistanbut can’t accept them here at home. We can set up hospitals, schools, courts and voting booths for veiled women abroad and pat ourselves on the back; but at home can’t bear the sight of them?

Jason Kenny, like most, believes that he is liberating the niqabee’s from the oppression imposed on them by their husbands and fathers. Not only is this entirely false, the reality is that he is restricting their freedom and engagement with society by disallowing them to become citizens. Perhaps – this is just a wild idea – by allowing them to become citizens, we might have a greater chance of integrating these new comers into our social fabric?

Yes, the niqab makes many of us uncomfortable as we are not accustomed to it. It means different things to different people; oppression to some and devotion to others. But banning things because we don’t like them is completely antithetical to what democracy stands for. Kenney said the ban was a matter of “deep principle.” What Canadian principle was sacrificed if someone did choose to wear a veil to the ceremony? Individualism, freedom of expression, religious accommodation? Visit a ski resort in the winter and you’ll see veiled people all around.

This unnecessary ban impacts a few and is largely political and symbolic. What is disturbing is the justification behind it. Jason Kenny banned the veil because it represented to him something that was against Canadian values. Using the same arguments, he could ban a number of other things. Would he ban the Muslim headscarf, the hijab, next because it’s not inline with his myopic view of what makes Canada? Perhaps he will then follow it by a ban on Mennonite bonnets and Sikh turbans. These measures immunize the public to the marginalization of a minority group and create precedent for further bans and cuts in religious freedoms.

Veiled women frequently reveal their faces for identification and other pragmatic purposes. If verifying the oath recital was so important, a polite request by the judge to those concerned would have done the job quite well. This however, would not have gotten Jason Kenny the popularity and political support he wanted. Implementing unilateral immediate bans doest not represent a democracy, rather, it is a shade of fascism.

See my letter the Toronto Star and  Hamilton Spectator 


Originally published in The Silhouette on Sept 22nd 2011

Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently declared that the greatest threat to Canada was ‘Islamicism’- whatever that is. Sure, we might be familiar with ‘Islamism’, ‘Islamist’ and ‘Islamesque’. But even the word processor on my computer doesn’t recognize ‘Islamicism’.

The unfortunate reality is that our Prime Minister has coined a new term in the lexicon which is aimed at using Islamaphobic sentiment for political advantage.

The average Joe who has never met a Muslim, knows nothing about Islam or is out of touch with the political landscape of our world is now convinced that Muslims like me are the greatest threat to this nation. He hails PM Harper for speaking up, saying things like they really are and for not bowing down to political correctness. His next vote is going to Harper.

Harper and his supporters defend his statement by saying that he was referring to Muslim terrorists and their ideology. However, by using such loose and imprecise terminology with constant focus on the word ‘Islam’, he is appealing to a large uninformed part of our society. This crowd is increasingly skeptical of Muslims and is affected by xenophobic rhetoric from the US and Europe.

Harper’s sophistry allows him to gain political support and at the same time dismiss any criticism on grounds that he was referring to violent extremists. The Progressive Conservatives have employed similar divisive politics in the provincial campaign for the October elections by labeling new Ontarians as ‘foreign workers’.

The Norwegian PM responded to the recent terror attacks by vowing for more democracy and a more open society. Our Prime Minister, on the other hand, uses the pretext of ‘Islamicism’ to re-introduce two controversial pieces of anti-terror legislation which were thrown out in 2007. Both aim to sacrifice personal rights and freedoms to give us an illusion of security. It is interesting to note these laws were never employed by police when they existed, yet the PM feels the need to introduce them again ten years later.

The most notorious terrorist attacks in Canada include the Air India bombings, which were carried out by Sikh militants, the Montreal Massacre, executed by an anti-feminist and the Quebec October Crises, which was lead by militant separatists. History tells us that terrorism can happen on our soil from a multitude of extreme groups, so why all the fear mongering about Islam, considering Muslim militants have never attacked Canada? Why put 800,000 Canadian Muslims under the lens of suspicion out of fear of a hypothetical threat from an obscure minority ?

In conclusion, I would argue that it’s not ‘Islamicism’ that is a threat to Canada. Rather, it is Harper’s sleazy and divisive politics which threatens our multicultural tapestry. It’s his agenda to bring back expired, undemocratic legislation which threatens our freedoms and personal rights. And it is his unbending desire to autonomously run this country that threatens our democracy.


Also see my letter to The Toronto Star

The Toronto District School Board has recently come into a lot of heat for accommodating Friday Prayers at school for Muslim students. The controversy was sparked when the Canadian Hindu Advocacy group objected to this practice, which has been happening for several years at schools in Toronto and surrounding regions.

Many major Canadian newspapers have published editorials calling an end to this practice and have offered numerous arguments; public opinion seems to be in their favour too. One of the main arguments proposed by supporters of the ban is that religious services shouldn’t be offered in a secular publicly funded school. If the Lord’s Prayer had to be banned, then Muslims too shouldn’t be allowed to offer their prayers they argue.

The main flaw in this argument is that Lord’s Prayer is not analogous to Friday Prayers. That is, Friday Prayers are a voluntary service organized by the students while the Lord’s Prayer was administered by the school and all students were expected to participate. The school is not indoctrinating a particular creed; it’s simply accommodating religious needs of students who choose to practice. If the issue is with an Imam coming to lead the prayers; this can be changed and students could lead as is the case in most schools (including the one I attended). Interesting to also note is the bigoted notion that the Imam might be preaching intolerance and hate.

One must not forget that religious practice is not banned from public schools; I quite clearly recall the Christian club at my school assembling for prayers and organizing other religious events. We still have Christmas assemblies at public schools too. Also, keep in mind that these prayers only take place from November to March during school hours. This is because the prayer time varies seasonally and it expires before the end of the school day during those months.

Another blatantly false accuation being made is non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the cafeteria during prayer. People of other faiths aren’t even prohibited in mosques, let alone a temporary prayer space. Infact, these prayers are often supervised by a non-Muslim teacher and in my personal case, my non-Muslim friends would drop by the cafeteria during prayers. Not only are they allowed, non-Muslims are generally encouraged and welcome to attend Muslim prayers.

The fact that Friday Prayers can only be offered in congregation leads to the other main argument, and perhaps the fiercest one, against this practice. Men and women are segregated in congregational prayers and girls usually sit behind the boys. This setting is said to be discriminatory towards women and opponents argue that it is against social values of gender equality taught at school.

This is yet another example of self righteous secularists looking at Islamic practices from their myopic worldview and passing judgment. They are out to rescue the ‘poor Muslim woman’; whether she asked for it or not. Did any of these girls complain to them about being subjugated at school? Did it not occur to them that these girls voluntarily pray in this setting? Little do they realize that by making such petty arguments they are actually hurting Muslim girls that want to pray. They also assume that Muslim girls would want to intermingle with the opposite sex during prayers; I can tell you with complete confidence that suggestion would cause them nothing but discomfort. Muslim girls are not obsessed with superficial displays of feminism.

Segregation during prayers is something done simply for the purposes of modesty. This is something the worshippers do themselves with knowledge of how prayers are normally conducted; not something forced on by the school. Islamic prayers involve a series of physical movements (e.g. bowing and prostrating) performed in unison and it would be considered immodest for men and women to perform these actions side by side.

Mosques often have separate prayer halls for women that are sometimes above the men’s prayer hall; would one conclude that women are superior to men just because they pray above them? If this in fact is such a big deal, then women could also pray alongside the men’s rows provided there is a barrier between them. Remember, segregation doesn’t equal discrimination. If that were the case then complaints should also be launched for having segregated gym classes and bathrooms at school.

One contention that I would have never expected to see raised was the alleged stigmatization of menstruating girls. This again is another example of extreme secularists and feminists viewing Islam from their lens of superficiality. Actually, Muslim men often complain about how menstruating women are relieved from the obligation of prayer and fasting while they have to perform these duties regardless. As Shahina Siddiqui pointed out, this is exemption is meant to be a compassionate accommodation and is something appreciated by Muslim women; especially those with PMS issues.  It is not tied to the gender of the worshiper; rather it is tied to fulfillment of some pre-conditons of the ritual prayer (Salah) which apply to both men and women.

People fail to see that these ‘third class’ menstruating girls attended the prayer sessions despite it not being a religious requirement upon them. It demonstrates that they feel a part of the community and see benefit in attending the sermon. No one knows who’s menstruating and who’s not and thus no one can tell anyone not to pray; these girls do this out of their own will inline with religious requirements. In fact, many menstruating girls pray regardless of their period and its quite probable that this happens in this particular congregation too. If these girls were in fact subject to the subjugation and mistreatment being claimed, why would they even attend prayers? There is more than meets the eye.

If the school board bows down to public pressure and bans theses prayers, then know that Muslim kids serious about their religion will continue to pray. However, instead of the cafeteria they might resort to secretly praying under a staircase, a storage closet, out in the parking lot or even the bathroom. Accommodating prayers for students means they don’t have to make the difficult choice between faith and education. Having attended a school which did accommodate my prayer requests, I know what a blessing that is.


Edited version of this piece also posted at Suhaib Webb

Micheal Oren, the Israeli Ambassador to the United States, was invited to speak at UC Irvine last February on Israeli-American relations to a packed university auditorium of over 500 people. He was in the midst of his speech when a student bravely stood up and defiantly shouted out to him, ‘Micheal Oren! Propagating murder is not an expression free speech!!’. The ambassador continued speaking after this short disruption only to be disrupted again; and again; and again, for a total of eleven times.

The protesting students were escorted out of the building and arrested for “disturbing a pubic event”, though not charged criminally. An investigation later alleged that the Muslim Students Union organized the protest and the club was subsequently suspended for the term and placed on probation for two years. The student’s protest was of course to Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people.

About three weeks ago, three days shy of a year after the incident, the Orange County District Attorney decided to lay criminal charges on the 11 students, now referred to as the Irvine 11, for heckling during Ambassador Oren’s speech. This is sparked outrage across the Muslim community and beyond. Debates on freedom of expression and civil disobedience were ignited across university campuses. How can a non-violent protest possibly be labeled a criminal activity in a free democratic society?

Whether or not the method employed during this protest was justified is arguable. No doubt that disrupting the speech of an ambassador is rude and inappropriate. However, there are times when people need to be dealt with harshly and perhaps the actions of Israel warrant such treatment. Perhaps the students could have employed less disruptive means such as holding banners, but then again, their voices would have not reached as far were other methods to be used. Either ways, I think we can all agree that disciplinary actions by the University were enough to reprimand these students and laying criminal charges is going too far.

Speaking of insulting foreign dignitaries, one must not forget that back in 2007 President Ahmedinejad was invited to speak at University of Columbia in New York. He was introduced on stage by the President of the University, Lee Bollinger. Bollinger’s introduction was essentially a verbal assault on the Ahmedinejad during which he said, among other insults, that, “Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator,” adding, “You are either brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated”. These are the words used by the president of a world-renowned university to introduce the leader of another nation! Who’s to blame students if teachers set out such an example.

Iran is not nearly as affluent in its injustices as is Israel. Sure, President Ahmedinejad makes outlandish and absurd statements denying the holocaust and expresses his wishes to destroy Israel; but when it comes to action, its Israel that is on the ground busy with the genocide of defenseless of Gazans. The Ambassador of Israel is certainly more worthy of such treatment than the President of Iran in my opinion. Also to note, as pointed out on Irving11.com, disrupting speeches has been used as a means to protest on campus in the past and no criminal charges or arrests were ever made. It makes one wonder if these charges were laid because of the importance of the speaker to America or because of the faith of the students protesting.

Regardless of the validity of the methods employed by these students, I must commend them for their courage and gallantry. Risking something as valuable as your entire university career to protest a cause you strongly believe in is the epitome of activism.

As morally conscientious people it becomes our responsibility to stand behind these brave individuals who have been wrongfully charged for defending the oppressed and saying that which is just. Please visit Iriving11.com to learn of ways you can support them.


Following the lead of German Chancellor, Angela Markel, Prime Minister David Cameron took a stab at the multiculturalism debate during a speech on extremism at the Munich Security Conference. Like the Chancellor, who was sharing the stage with him, he too concluded that multiculturalism had failed in Britain and identified it as a catalyst to extremism. While Markel only implied that Muslims were the culprits, Cameron stated this quite frankly.

Perhaps it was the 6-hour lunch with the Chancellor that led the PM to make such accusations, but it is quite clear that he feels Muslims in Britain aren’t British enough. In his simplistic attempt to point out the cause of extremism amongst British Muslim youth, he blamed state sponsored multiculturalism which encourages people to live separate lives instead of assimilating with the mainstream.

David Cameron’s conclusions are flawed on levels too many enumerate. To begin with, the accusation that British Muslims live isolated lives and aren’t a part of the mainstream is completely absurd. Muslims have been a part of Britain since Victorian times and have especially played an active role in society over the last half century. They are successful politicians, lawyers, doctors, social workers, artists and athletes. From cricketers like Naseer Hussain to musicians like Yusuf Islam, there isn’t a walk a life that Muslims have left untouched. Peter Sanders explored this very theme in his exhibit, ‘The Art of Integration’, something I would strongly recommend for David Cameron.

Another thing Mr. Cameron overlooks is our natural inclination as human beings to cling onto people with shared values, customs and beliefs. Just like goths hangout with goths and homosexuals thrive in certain parts of the city, similarly, Muslims too have a subculture that they find easier to relate too. Would the former groups be the next ones to be accused of not integrating into wider society? British Muslims have their own unique identity and to dismiss this as separatism is simply injustice. While preaching for liberal democratic values, the Prime Minister wants to eradicate individualism and wants to everyone to be a part of the mainstream? Am I the only one seeing the irony in this?

While I would agree that isolation from the mainstream community is the type of the environment that would fuel extremism, I disagree that this isolation exists because of a lack of shared national values. It exists because of the constant dehumanization of Muslims and uninterrupted bigotry that they are faced with. It is because of movements like the English Defense League and politicians like Geert Wilders whose sole aim is to spread fear mongering. As a result of this prejudice and constant stereotyping in the media, anti-Muslim sentiments have become increasingly acceptable in the UK. When society as a whole sees you as the ‘other’, it is only natural for you to isolate yourself from society.

It’s perplexing to see the Prime Minister of a country as old as Britain, with its rich history and timeless legacy, questioning national identity. This is a reflection of the insecurity felt not only in Britain but all across Europe. With David Cameron’s strong nationalistic tone and a call for assimilation into mainstream society, it seems like he won’t settle for anything less than Muslim women taking on the Union Jack for a headscarf.

Also published at Iqra


Originally written for MuslimMatters

In the midst of the Islamophobic outbursts of 2010, a time when the future looked bleak and our aspirations suffered a blow, this inspirational story of a small Muslim community in the Arctic captivated hearts and gave us hope.

While most people were preoccupied with the Park51 debate and the American Muslim community battled a slew of Islamophobic attacks, a different story, a more hopeful one, developed north of the border. Quite a bit north actually, about 4000 kilometres north to be more specific. This is the story of a new chapter in the lives of the Muslims in Inuvik, Canada.

Inuvik is an arctic town in Canada’s Northwest Territories with a population of about 3500 people. It’s located right at the tip of North America facing the Arctic Ocean. With a polar climate and harsh living conditions, one wouldn’t expect to find a town there, let alone a town with Muslims. But there is a Muslim community there and a growing one, too. So much so that the trailer that was being used as the mosque ran out of room and this community now needed a new mosque.

Building a mosque in the Arctic, however, is far more complicated than it is anywhere else. The scarcity of skilled labour and material makes the cost of such a project skyrocket and this undertaking is simply impossible for a small community of a 100 people. Their situation is akin to that of the Muslims in Edmonton, who despite all odds managed to erect Canada’s first mosque in 1938. With faith in God anything is possible. At a time like this, the Inuvik Muslims could have simply prayed for a mosque to be shipped over. And that’s exactly what they were about to get.

Enter, the Zubaidah Tallab Foundation. The Zubaidah Tallab Foundation is a charity based out of Manitoba. The remarkable individuals at this organization decided to give the Inuvikans a hand and took it upon themselves to ensure that the mosque got built. After evaluating the cost of locally building the mosque, they came up with a plan which at first sight would easily be dismissed as insanity. Build the mosque in Winnipeg and ship it 4000 kilometres away to Inuvik in the Northwest Territories.

As insane as that may sound, this was the most economical way of getting the mosque built. Part of the mosque’s journey was going to be on roads (2400km) and part on water (1800 km). The goal was to get the mosque on to the last barge heading towards Inuvik for the season. Not only was this going to be a logistical nightmare but it was to be a race against time as well. With receding water levels in the Mackenzie River, the shipping company decided to push up the departure date by 3 weeks.

The 1500 square-foot mosque was built in Winnipeg and started its journey on a semi-trailer. The over-sized trailer made its way through back roads and country highways, struggling to make it to the barge in time; it was delayed further by Labour Day celebrations and highway regulations. To complicate matters even more, the bridge across Reindeer Creek proved too narrow for the trailer. The driver had to remove the back wheels and a second truck was brought in to balance the back of the flatbed as the mosque was moved carefully across bridge. But this wasn’t the biggest scare. All hopes and dreams came close to being shattered when the mosque almost fell off the trailer into a creek near the Alberta border.

The organizers managed to request the shipping company to hold the barge for two extra days and perhaps by divine intervention, the barge was delayed further due to poor weather. With lots of prayer and a little bit of luck, the trailer managed to get to the barge just in time. The mosque was loaded on to the barge and set off for its journey towards the North Pole.

The barge arrived in Inuvik, on September 24th2010. After an excruciating 3-week journey, the little mosque arrived at its destination; all in one piece. The Inuvik Muslims gathered around the port to witness the historical event. They chanted prayers to praise and thank God as they waited. Some jumped around with joy while others were overwhelmed with gratitude and came to tears.

Numerous finishing touches needed to be added and it took about a month to get the mosque ready for use. Fathallah Fargat, a carpenter from St. Catherines, Ontario was inspired by the story and traveled all the way to Inuvik to help set up the mosque. He even helped build a 10-meter minaret to accompany the newly erected mosque. The Midnight Sun Mosque, as it is now called, was inaugurated on November 10th 2010 to become North America’s northern most mosque. All in all, the entire project cost about $300,000. The Zaid Tallabah Foundation, which still has outstanding payments to make, is looking to raise another $21,000.

The Inuvik mosque is a stellar example of what can be accomplished by unity, hard work and faith in God. For those let down by the petty attacks on mosques around the West, this story should rejuvenate your spirit and give you hope. If people can manage to build a mosque in the Arctic, then building one anywhere else should be far from impossible.

Click here for picture slideshow


The is a two part series. See here for Part I

I proceeded to the main prayer hall which was upstairs. It was a simple large room with a dark green carpet. There wasn’t a partition or a separate prayer hall for women like I’ve seen in most other mosques (some consider the lack of a partition to be closer to the Prophetic tradition). I saw a couple of older sisters setting up chairs for themselves and decided to help them. I started asking them questions about Malcolm X and as it turned out they had actually met him! They told me how they used to go to his talks and that they became Muslim during his time. I inquired further about how it was for them to move from the teachings of the Nation of Islam to orthodox Islam. They explained that for them it was just another step in the learning process; the transition was relatively smooth. However, they did mention that some of their friends had difficulty and even went back to the old ways.

I visited them in during Ramadan and it was time to break fast. Dates were passed around and the men and women gathered around in the hallway and broke their fast. We then proceeded to the prayer hall where sunset prayers were offered. The individual leading the prayer recited the Arabic in a unique African-American accent; it was interesting to listen to it, sometimes I felt he might have jumbled up the words.

I met some of the brothers after the prayer. One of them might have been around eighteen; he was the youngest one present. He too was a convert and become Muslim after studying Islam on his own. He explained he’d been coming to the mosque even since and has learned how to practice from the Imam who teaches on Sundays. He told me that about 95% of the people at that mosque used to be Christian at one point. I met another gentleman who too had met Malcolm X. He however did not become Muslim until the late 90’s, some forty years after Malcolm Shabazz’s death. His story reminded me never to lose hope in people you do dawah to; you never know when their hearts will be guided. I was a little disappointed by the numbers at the mosque though. During sunset prayers in Ramadan a total of maybe 30 people came out, most of them were quite old too.

I was then invited for Iftar by the people at the mosque. The dinner was prepared in a separate dining room on the main level; it was to be served on a table as opposed to on the floor. I was informed that the room actually used to be a coffee shop and Malcolm X would often hangout here; he liked his coffee black I was told. There was a strong sense order and discipline amongst these people. Everything was to be done in a specific fashion and you couldn’t do it otherwise. For example, the sisters were responsible for serving the food and the brothers were to wait for it to be delivered. I tried to get up to help myself but it was frowned up and I decided to stay seated.

The food was all homemade and very delicious. It wasn’t the usual birayni though; they served meat loaf and vegetables instead. The conversation was quite enjoyable; they told me stories about Malcolm X and things that go on their community. I felt quite welcomed even though I was an outsider in many ways. They had a strong sense of community and it was quite apparent that their bonds went years back. A guy came in late and one of the older sisters scolded him like a typical grandma; it was funny moment.

As I walked out of the masjid and into the dark Harlem streets to head home, I reflected on the incredible achievements of Malcolm Shabazz. He single handedly transformed a community and left an unshakable legacy. His determination, open-mindedness and uncompromising pursuit for the truth inspires people to this day. Malcolm’s story is to be studied for it is a testament to not only the transformative powers of religion but also of us as human beings.

Also posted on The Mirror


Last summer I had the opportunity to visit New York City. I was excited for this trip as I have always wanted to visit the Big Apple. It has a rich history, a vibrant culture and in my opinion it is decorated with the world’s best collection of sky scrapers. In addition to checking out all the regular touristy sites I wanted to visit a not so touristy part of New York; Harlem.

For those that don’t know, Harlem is the cultural capital of the African American community in New York. I wanted to visit Harlem for several reasons. One reason was to explore African American culture. Being black in Canada means something very different than what it means to be black in America. I wanted to get a chance to observe African American culture and there is no better place to do that than Harlem. More importantly, the reason I wanted to visit Harlem was because Malcolm X was primarily based out of this place. It was in this neighborhood where he was once a hustler and it was from this place that he eventually led his movement. More specifically he transformed this area into the heart of the black Muslim community in the 60’s.

Initially, I just wanted to walk around the neighborhood. I wasn’t sure if there were any historic landmarks that I could visit. I looked at the map I had purchased and my eye caught the attention of a land mark that read ‘Malcom Shabazz Mosque’. I was excited. I wasn’t sure if the mosque would be related to Malcom X in anyway or if it was just named after him. I decided to visit the mosque and find out my self. I got lost on the subway but luckily ran into a stranger (a gigantic Cuban guy who could barely speak English) that agreed to drive me to Harlem! It was big risk getting into a car with a stranger but it certainty paid off.

I was dropped a few blocks away from my destination which meant I had to walk a little. I started to notice the cultural differences right away. Not only were the inhabitants predominantly black but there was a sizable muslim population too as I saw men in kufis, women wearing hijabs and abayas. I asked for directions to Malcolm X’s mosque and was soon guided in the right direction. I was walking down Malcolm X Avenue; it was evident that Malcolm X held an esteemed status in this neighborhood.

I soon sighted a building with a gigantic green dome; I had arrived at my destination. I entered and saw a front desk attendant at the mosque. It’s not normal for a mosque to have such a thing so I just tried to bypass the desk but was stopped. I was a little scared; I know the Nation of Islam was dissolved at one point and all ‘temples’ were converted to orthodox mosques but I wasn’t sure about this particular one. The attendant asked me why I was there and I explained I was there for prayers. I looked around saw a chart with the five daily prayer times and some other symbols that convinced me this was an orthodox mosque. I then asked the attendant if this was the mosque where Malcolm X was based out of. His eyes lit up when I mentioned Malcolm’s name; ‘Yes! This is it. This is where it all happened’. I knew I was in for a treat.

Also posted on The Mirror


In an unexpected turn of events on The View this week, Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar walked off the set after a heated argument with Bill O’Reilly. This happened right after Bill O’Reilly assertively commented, ‘Muslims killed us on 9/11!’. As the video shows, Whoopi was genuinely infuriated and offended. Earlier she tried to speak for the 70 Muslim families that lost loved ones when the twin towers collapsed; with hopes of showing that 9/11 was a tragedy for the Muslims too.

I truly admire and appreciate Whoopi and Joy’s strong indignation. Its one thing to stand and defend yourself but to stand up and speak for someone else takes a different sort of courage. The fact that Bill O’Reilly had the audacity to openly make such harsh comments on national television represents a scary reality. How can such discriminatory rhetoric become acceptable in our politically correct society where people are sensitive to wishing others ‘Merry Christmas’? The power of the media in swaying public opinion never fails to amaze me.