Imagine walking up a hill, sometime in the night, to an old styled English cottage house that illuminates with tingling lights. The closer you become, the louder the sounds of claps, poetry, and joyful mingling get. As you make your way into the cottage house you find an excited audience surrounding one artist and storyteller after another. Glamorous dangling string lights illuminate the presence of each speaker as he/she steps to thrill the audience with his/her profound messages. Well folks, in actuality this is not too far from reality. On February 11, McMaster Muslims for Peace and Justice (MMPJ), held an enchanting event full of creativity, diversity, and identity empowerment.
MMPJ is a McMaster University club led by an enthusiastic group of students from diverse majors, unified in raising awareness towards social injustice and empowering the Muslim community. Given the rise of Islamophobia as seen in the post-Paris Attacks and in Trump’s growing fear mongering tactics, Muslims once again feel the urge to apologize for their existence. As some media outlets continue to stereotype, the majority of Muslims are yet again held accountable for crimes they did not commit and for actions they do not stand for.
Therefore, MMPJ found it necessary to open a safe space for the Muslim youth to express their concerns. The event hosted all types of artists and storytellers who passionately addressed the ludicrousness of bigotry and racism that Muslims are forced to face. Including the irony within the Muslim community who is struggling to attract the youth by its perceived rigidity of what is halal and haram, as painter and speaker Sara Abdul Aziz explains, and who is fearful of addressing mental health and racism within its own community.
Speaker Mohamed Mohamed steps to the front and tells his heart-warming story of saving a person who was attempting suicide, who in his words “saved him” by helping him cope with his loss of a friend to suicide. “Prayer alone is not sufficient enough to solve the issues of mental health,” Mohamed explains as he urges the Muslim community to seek help without shame. Not too long after, artist Kaltum Shire powerfully articulates her struggle as an African Canadian Muslim. In a piece of slam poetry Kaltum exclaims “I visited dozens of masjids where strangers slit their feet away from me never wanting to put themselves next to me. This year alone I have been asked by far, far too many people how in the world can I possibly be black, and Muslim, at the same time!”
MMPJ provided a successful model of a diverse event that encompassed people of other faiths, and Muslims from diverse backgrounds including Muslim reverts/converts. The event gracefully ended with a large audience walking off proud of being unapologetically Muslim.
Author’s Note: To watch all artists’ performances please click here.