UPDATE: Alhamdulillah, that “better tomorrow” was realized on September 30, 2016! Rabia Khedr, the founder of the Canadian Association of Muslims with Disabilities (CAM-D) and a community activist, was appointed as a commissioner on the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
Already featured on Lanterns, we wanted to update this piece and congratulate Sr. Rabia on her intelligence, hard work, courage, and perseverance which lead her to this point.
Mabrook Sr. Rabia! We pray that Allah (SWT) places tawfique in your new appointment.
Those who know Rabia Khedr can attest to her exuberant nature, zest for life and passion for helping others. Setting a prime example for those around her, there is no obstacle in her life she hasn’t overcome with faith, optimism, and hard work.
Ms. Khedr is currently a candidate for City Councillor, Ward 4 Mississauga, Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Muslims with Disabilities and Board Member of the Federation of Muslim Women.
In recognition of her community volunteerism and human rights activism, Rabia Khedr has been awarded many medals and honours, including Women’s Intercultural Network Award (2014), Outstanding Community Woman of 2013, Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal (2012), Woman of Resilience Award (2011), Ontario Outstanding Asian-Canadian Award (2010), and many others. Her profound message to those around her is to always see the humanity in others first, by looking beyond differences to seek similarities.
Lanterns was honoured to sit down in conversation with Ms. Khedr to learn more about her inspiring story:
Lanterns: What inspired you to go into the field of politics?
Rabia: I majored in Political Science alongside Industrial Relations during my undergrad at UTM in the early 90s. I was very passionate about global issues and very conscious of what was happening in the world. In fact, right after my convocation on June 17, 1993, I made the decision to wear hijab. I was planning a career in human resources and dabbled into it initially. Times were tough to break through into corporate Canada in the mid-90s. I had always said to myself that I wouldn’t do anything with disability since we had enough of it in our personal life.
Allah (SWT), the Master Planner, thrusted me into community work which I saw as accidental or coincidental at the time. I ended up working in disability organizations at the grassroots level. One day, I quit my full-time job because it was no longer making a difference. It was becoming exclusively bureaucratic. I started up my own business doing training and research that I felt makes an impact on the lives of people. The greatest gift I have from Allah (SWT) is communication and power of the language both oral and written.
I have spent endless hours volunteering with organizations both in the mainstream and in the Muslim community. I founded organizations. I helped organizations grow and develop. I served on boards and committees. I have been the chair of the City of Mississauga Accessibility Advisory Committee for 8 years. I ended up challenging a redevelopment application in my neighbourhood and found that the voice of residents was not heard often unless we organized and advocated for ourselves. I had an issue with having to fight to be heard.
As taxpayers, as residents, as citizens, this should be a given on part of our elected officials at the municipal level. Nevertheless, we fought the developer and one. I decided that it was time to enter public office at the city level. It is important to provide a strong voice for residents to balance out stakeholder interests when decisions are made that impact our quality of life.
Lanterns: What kind of struggles and challenges did you face?
Rabia: Entering politics has its challenges. When you are not running under a party, you lack resources and the know-how. We learned by doing. Alhamdulillah, I discovered that lots of people believed in me last year when I ran. With 25 days to go with the by-election, I am finding some wonderfully committed people coming on board to make this victory happen with their time and with their money. However, we do lack an intentional institutional approach. Because our organizations have been under scrutiny, they are not willing to take the smallest of risks to ensure they support their own; something other communities are doing for their own.
Lanterns: What was the best moment of your political career?
Rabia: Meeting people, talking to average residents, and raising awareness. I have been making headlines in the local paper without it always being a Muslim issue.
Lanterns: What’s your advice to everyone out there who wishes to contribute positively to society through hard work and persistence?
Rabia: Communication conquers almost all differences. As long as we cherish our freedom to believe and allow the laws of the land to guide our behaviour (Allah SWT expects us to honour the laws of the land for the most part), we will succeed. Don’t have a chip on our shoulder waiting for the world to discriminate. Be confident and comfortable in our skin. Always lift others when you climb.
We’d like to thank Ms. Khedr for taking the time to speak with us. If you’d like to know more about her campaign, visit http://www.rabiakhedr.ca/.
With one day left for the much-awaited 4th Annual Being ME Women’s Conference, it is only expected that sisters all over Canada are eagerly planning to spend their Saturday in downtown Toronto. Being ME is a yearly conference held in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in the month of March, and is run by some of the most inspiring Muslimahs in the country.
The conference boasts a powerful array of options for women to pursue. From practical workshops and tutorials, to life-changing lectures, to creative shopping opportunities — there will be more than enough to do in a day for any one individual. To know more about the event, read our interview below with one of the conference’s vibrant organizers, Shaheen Auckbaraullee (Marketing Department Lead) where she elaborates on the rest of the awesomeness Being ME has to offer!
ISNA Lanterns: What is the significance of Being ME for you, personally?
Being ME: As an organizer, it’s wonderful being part of a team with whom you learn, share and grow with throughout the year. On the day of the conference, you’re not just physically smiling because of the hard work that you’ve put in to making this conference happen. Rather your entire self is smiling from the core of your heart. It is for this reason that I look forward to Being ME every time it comes around! Knowing that each and everyone one of us comes with a story and reason for improving oneself via Being ME. This experience helps me build the bonds of sisterhood, reach out to the community through service and bring together 4000 sisters striving to become better people.
ISNA Lanterns: What makes this year’s conference different than the years before? Anything exciting you are looking forward to in particular?
Being ME: Our focus this year is to provide an inspirational and transformational experience for every attendee. If we can create even a single moment for sisters to renew their faith and come closer to Allah, then we have succeeded in our goal.
This year we also focused on various events throughout the year in addition to the main conference. Back in November we held an event called Resilience which featured Muslim women from across the GTA. They spoke about their personal challenges and how they overcame them by maintaining their faith. The Legacy Tour was an event where we highlighted the achievements of female historical figures in Islam. We learned about their diverse backgrounds, difficult circumstances and the incredible feats that they achieved. Both of our events were intended to provide Muslim women the courage and confidence to attain their goals, create their own legacies and empower our Muslimahs!
At this year’s conference we’re also featuring an incredible line up of female speakers, film screenings, hands on tutorials at the Sisters Corner and recitations by the winners of this year’s Qur’an competition. In addition, we will be hosting the Play and Pray Children’s Conference alongside the regular program. Finally, we are excited to be hosting the first annual Building ME Seminar on March 8th, 2015! This intensive one-day retreat will be a unique opportunity to interact with the speakers and build the bonds of sisterhood.
ISNA Lanterns: How would you say your event is accessible to all?
Being ME: The Being ME team has put a lot of care and consideration into this event. We selected a venue that is easily accessible by those driving or taking public transit. We have also arranged a bus service for sisters attending from around the GTA, Kitchener, Newmarket and London. In addition, our team of volunteers has been actively looking for sponsors to assist sisters who cannot afford to attend the event. Finally we arranged for closed captioning, note takers and deaf services.
ISNA Lanterns: Tell us more about the talent show! We’ve heard great things and know many sisters are particularly excited about it.
Being ME: The talent show is one of my favourite parts of Being ME. We aim to showcase the many talents of Muslim women, from Quran recitation, spoken word, art exhibitions and so much more! It’s really fun watching our sisters demonstrate their talents. It also encourages other sisters to find their passions and share it with the world!
ISNA Lanterns: Thank you so much for your time. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Being ME: Our theme for this year’s conference is Quran: The Compass to Compassion. We chose this theme because of the simple yet powerful role that compassion plays in our day-to-day lives. From maintaining family ties, forgiving those who wrong us, overlooking the faults of others and being kind to our neighbours, compassion is an essential to the character of a believer. In the Qur’an, we find a roadmap on how to develop this beautiful quality. InshaAllah through this conference, we will use the Qur’an to purify our hearts, perfect our character and develop compassion within ourselves and in the Muslim community.
We thank Sr. Shaheen for her time with ISNA Lanterns, and thank all the Being ME organizers who have put in much effort to make the conference a reality. ISNA Lanterns hopes to see all 4000+ sisters there in less than a day’s time for a fantastic Saturday.