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Sharing Muslim Canadian Stories

by Chelby Daigle, about 2 years ago

I am the Editor in Chief of Muslim Link, Ottawa's Muslim Community Website.

What has been important in this role has been to ensure that the perspective we offer is not only true to Muslim realities but also Canadian realities.

Muslim Canadians are a truly diverse community, including not only those who have migrated to Canada, those born here as the children of immigrants and refugees, but also those who have converted or as we say "reverted" to Islam.

Some of my favourite stories on our website include a profile of the first Muslim born in Ottawa, Eva Wahab, who was pivotal in the building of our city's first mosque, or our profile of Shady Hafez, who is both Algonquin First Nation and Syrian. Or our profile of Jae Deen, a convert to Islam, who is part of Deen Squad, a "halal" hip hop group from Ottawa that now tours internationally, catering to a growing global fanbase of Muslims and non-Muslims who love hip hop without the swearing. Or our recent profile of an entrepreneur couple from Montreal who just appeared on CBC's Dragons Den.

These are all Canadian stories and they are all Muslim stories. They are Muslim Canadian stories.

What I have appreciated is that over time we have gained the respect of many Canadian mainstream media producers who follow our content and often find ideas for people from our community to profile or interview.

Earlier this year, we "made" the news, when Canadian and international media took up our story of a woman wearing niqab in Ottawa who wanted to thank the bus driver who stood up for her when she was verbally attacked for being Muslim by a fellow passenger.

Unfortunately, there will continue to be those who question whether Muslims can ever be "Canadian" enough to belong in this country, but that is why we need to all be producing more stories that showcase the diverse reality of Canadians. Why would any of these stories not be authentically "Canadian"?

I think that Canadian media, be it community media like our website, or mainstream media, should strive to help build social cohesion, mutual respect, and understanding and appreciation of our diversity and complexity. Not just for religious communities like mine, but also for indigenous communities, rural communities, northern communities, etc.

The more I recognize the challenge as an editor to properly showcase the full diversity and complexity of one relatively small community of Muslim Canadians in the Nation's Capital, the more humble I become and increasingly aware of how little I know about the diversity and complexity of other communities that I don't belong to, of the dramatically different realities of people who live just an hour's drive outside of my city.

Canadian Media should help us all bridge those gaps, and we should all be committed to seeking out Canadian media that helps us understand our fellow citizens and even those who aren't citizens but who live amongst us.

Because of this, as part of our publication's commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation process and in honour of Canada's birthday in 2017, we have committed to including more profiles of non-Muslim Canadians on our website because just as we would want other Canadian media to profile Muslim Canadians, we as a publication should be committed to doing the same.

As part of our commitment to Truth and Reconciliation, we profiled indigenous elder, Chief Robert Joseph, a residential school survivor and honorary witness to Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and we hope in the new year to dedicate more time to curating stories and profiles of non-Muslim Canadians in order to build intercultural and interfaith understanding between all of our communities in this country.

I am excited to see what 2017 will bring in terms of Canadian cultural creativity and I am glad to have the opportunity to be even a small part of it, alhamduillah (Thanks be to the Creator)

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