Screening: Neglected Voices: Stories of Canadian Muslim Youth and Identity
On Tuesday, February 28, the Tessellate Institute screened the four short films produced as part of the Neglected Voices project (description below) in 2011 to a small audience of engaged community members.
Nabeel Ahmed provided a brief introduction to the Tessellate Institute and set the context for the screenings.
Then the four short “point of view” style films were screened, which helped young Muslims explain their feelings about Canadian identity.
The screening was followed by a Q&A with director Jawad Jafry, of Adam’s World fame, and Dr. Kathy Bullock, President of the Tessellate Institute. The audience was full of questions and a lively discussion ensued, about Canadian and Muslim identity, integration and multiculturalism, and discrimination.
About Neglected Voices:
Muslim youth are often at the forefront of international public debate, analysis and scrutiny. What is often missing from these discourses are the voices of young Muslims themselves. Neglected Voices presents 4 short films about Muslim youth who are at risk of being marginalized, representing different ethnic groups that face divergent challenges in Canadian society.
Films produced by the Tessellate Institute & Olive Tree Foundation, presented by the University of Toronto Students’ Union
Talk to the West Toronto Junction Historical Society
On Thursday, April 1, Dr Katherine Bullock and Dr Murray Hogben spoke to a rapt audience of the West Toronto Junction Historical Society (WTJHS). WTJHS is a non-profit, charitable, volunteer organization, was formed in 1980. And what better audience could there be for the Tessellate Institute’s oral history project on Toronto’s first mosque, which was established in the area known as “the Junction?”
Dr Bullock spoke about the importance of oral history for creating records of people’s memories and perspectives for future historians, especially considering that very little is known about Muslim history in Canada. Dr Hogben reminisced about his time as secretary at the mosque. A special treat was to have in the audience several children (now grown adults) of some of the founding members of Toronto’s first mosque, who shared their own memories (“I recognise our living room curtains in the Malcom X photo taken at the mosque”!).
Launch of Oral History Project Website
It was standing room only on November 10, 2009, at the historic web launch of www.mosqueone.com, a website dedicated to the first ever oral history project documenting the establishment of a Muslim institution in Canada: Toronto’s first mosque.
The oral history project was conducted by The Tessellate Institute, funded by the Olive Tree Foundation, co-sponsored by the International Development and Relief Foundation, and produced by Jawad Jafry of Imaan Communications.
The Muslim Students Association (University of Toronto, St. George Campus), whose own history is linked to Toronto’s first mosque, hosted the event at the Cumberland Room in the International Student Centre of the University of Toronto, St George Campus.
TTI President, Dr Katherine Bullock, gave the audience a “tour” of the website – showing short video clips from interviews with 8 pioneers; full transcripts of the interviews; photographs and other legal and textual documents relating to the Dundas St mosque. Mosqueone.com is an educational resource for academics, teachers, policy-makers and general community members.
The Dundas St mosque was founded in 1961 by the Muslim Society of Toronto. In 1968 the MST moved to a larger building, as the community outgrew the small building they had purchased from a leather maker. Dr. Bullock pointed out that the project had accidentally tampered with the urban legend that the second mosque that the MST had purchased was actually Toronto’s first mosque. And this emphasised the importance of oral history, because if no-one had documented the testimonials of those Muslims pioneers, after they had passed on, no-one would have known about the existence of this earlier mosque.
Irfan Syed, a TTI director and Master of Ceremonies for the event, noted the important role the Dundas St mosque played in helping new Muslim immigrants settle into life in Toronto, and how many of its founders went on to establish other important Canadian Muslim institutions and organisations. The mosque became the family for its small congregation of about 150 people. Syed read from the objects of the MST’s articles of incorporation as well as two spin-off associations, which were in part to assist new immigrants in learning the laws and customs of Canada. Given the prevalent negative stereotype that today’s Muslim immigrants cannot properly ‘integrate’ into Canadian society, this was a telling counter-evidence.
The Honourable Kathleen Wynne, the Ontario Minister for Education addressed the crowd of students, academics, activists and Muslim community leaders and members, noting that while more work needed to be done in areas of equity, Canada was a model for diversity. She commended the oral history project, saying it was a “terrific resource” and that she would work to ensure Ontario’s teachers were aware of it.
Dr Joseph O’Connell, a Professor Emeritus in the study of religion at the University of Toronto, reminisced about his time teaching the first ever world religions credit course with Dr MQ Baig, in the late 1960s. Dr Baig (now deceased) was President of the Muslim Society of Toronto from in the late 1960s.
Jawad Jafry, producer of the website, whose own parents had prayed at the Dundas St mosque, talked about how important the Muslim Students’ Association has been as a place for Muslim students to learn the skills of leadership and community development that they have then taken with them as graduates to other associations. Through this, the MSA has offered a great service to the Muslim community, and also to Canada, he concluded.
Dr Bullock presented the guest speakers with flowers as a token of appreciation, and the guests enjoyed refreshments after this.