A place for Muslim women in Winnipeg

Winnipeg Free Press – September 29, 2012


Hamood learned to swim — and love the water — through a female-only swimming program organized by the Canadian Muslim Women’s Institute at the Winnipeg city-owned Sherbrook Pool. The institute’s mandate includes providing programs and services for Muslim women such as Hamood in order to adapt to their new lives in Canada, explains institute president Yasmin Ali.

After six years in borrowed spaces, Ali hopes the institute’s new and spacious home in a former garment factory, Gemini Fashions on Juno Street, will allow the organization to expand its programming and continue to fund existing ones, such as the 10-week swimming program. The new location adjoins Peerless Garments, where the institute runs an employment-training program and sewing workshop for Muslim women.

University of Toronto gets Muslim chaplain who hopes to fight stereotypes

News Agencies – September 28, 2012


The University of Toronto hired its first full-time Muslim chaplain and the man taking up the post hopes to combat stereotypes surrounding the faith. Amjad Tarsin is a 28-year-old of Libyan descent who hails from Ann Arbour, Mich. He began to devote himself to the religion when he was in university, dropping out of law school to get a degree in Muslim chaplaincy.

Tarsin sees himself as a different kind of Muslim chaplain, one who has travelled the world and identifies himself as a movie buff — especially when it comes to Japanese samurai films and the Lord of the Rings series. Tarsin’s goal is to have an open dialogue with students and create a strong Canadian Muslim identity on a campus with close to 5,000 Muslim students. To fill the position, the Muslim Students Association raised $70,000 with an online campaign that began in June. Funding came from around the world, with contributions pouring in from as far away as Denmark.

Canadian Blind Muslim sisters recognized with Jubilee medals

On Islam – June 24, 2012


Rabia Khedr and her younger sister Uzma Khan were awarded Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medals for their efforts in advocating for disabled people. The blind Muslim sisters were among more than 600 Canadian receiving the medals at Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall last week.

Khedr is a well-known Canadian Muslim who has worked tirelessly to raise awareness around disability issues. At university, she became actively involved with the Muslim Students Association (MSA) where she played a leadership role within the association but never stepped into the limelight. Her activism increased after university. Within days of graduation, Khedr started wearing a hijab.

Khedr, who is married and has four children, runs her own consultancy company and she has consulted for the Canadian Association for Community Living and Providence Health Care. She sits on the board of the Ontario Women’s Health Network and is a member of the City of Mississauga Accessibility Advisory Committee.

Khedr’s younger sister, Uzma Khan, has also been active in disability issues. Khan works in information technology with a Canadian bank and was vice-chair of the former Accessibility Advisory Council of Ontario. In keeping with the tradition of honoring Queen Elizabeth II milestone years of service, the commemorative medal has been created to mark the 60th anniversary of Queen’s accession to the Throne.

Mixed-Muslim marriage in Vancouver, Canada

Vancouver Sun – May 30, 2012
Multi-faith Metro Vancouver is a place of high rates of intermarriage and inter-ethnic dating. Islam, now the second largest religion in Canada, teaches that it is sinful for Muslim women, but not Muslim men, to marry outside the faith.
Professor Yvonne Haddad, a prominent Islamic scholar at the University of Massachussets, says that Canadian census figures, which are far more detailed than U.S. census data, reveal the extent of the marriage threat to North America’s roughly two million Muslim women. Statistics Canada census data shows that roughly 30 per cent of Canadian Muslim women marry non-Muslim men, says Haddad.
Children are the crux of the Muslim law against women marrying outside the faith. Islam teaches that Muslim identity is transferred through the father. That makes it all right for Muslim men to marry non-Muslim women, because they don’t pass on the faith.
“There is a lot of heartache if a Muslim woman marries a non-Muslim,” says Fehmida Khan, president of the Canadian Muslim Women’s Association. She explains that Muslim imams and other religious officials won’t talk to non-Muslims about difficulties followers have with marriage.
Only about four per cent of foreign-born Muslim women in Canada will intermarry, says Hassan Hamdani, a Muslim researcher who studies Muslim demographics through his job with Statistics Canada in Ottawa. But evidence of second-generation Muslims embracing Canadians’ openness to intermarriage is strong, Hamdani says. Almost 40 per cent of Canadian-born Muslim families consist of a Muslim wife and non-Muslim husband.

Photo of Canadian Muslim woman wearing face veil while holding bra stirs controversy

News Agencies – April 13, 2012


An art student who wears Muslim headscarf is defending her right to freedom of expression after a photo she snapped was removed from public display at a British Columbia university. The large black and white print depicts a woman in full Islamic scarf and cloak holding a flower-embossed bra while folding laundry. Sooraya Graham produced the image and presented it earlier this year for a class assignment as part of her fine arts degree at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops.


Not long after it had been hung in the school hallway, she overheard a woman who also wears a head scarf saying she had peeled the artwork off the wall. That decision inadvertently put the photograph into greater public view, and has now generated debate about cultural misconceptions, community representation and censorship. Graham said her intention had been to “humanize” women who wear the niqab, which covers a woman’s entire head except for her eyes, by showing one doing a simple act that many women can relate to. Since the incident was made public, an education centre in Kamloops funded by the Saudi Arabian Embassy has gone public with its opposition as well, Graham said.

Controversial ad spurs debate in Toronto

News agencies – April 4, 2012

A Muslim advertisement stating “There is no god but Allah” has started a vigorous debate amongst TTC riders and sparked a review from the Toronto Transit Commission Advertising Commission Group. After five complaints were made, a working group including Councillor Karen Stintz has decided to allow the advertisement to remain in the Kennedy subway station.

According to the Islam Info Centre, the ad — posted in January — is aimed at raising religious awareness. They have not received any complaints directly. In fact, he said they have been receiving many more visitors inquiring about the religion.

Charles McVety, president of the Canada Family Action Coalition, said it is offensive to all non-Muslims.

Tarek Fatah, founder of the Canadian Muslim Congress, does not agree with the ad, either. “This is what is called the declaration of belief. It basically reads ‘There is no god but God,’” he said.

But the Muslim group translated part of the text into English, and left “Allah,” an Islam word for god, as is.

Canadian Muslim investors seek Shariah-compliant RRSPs

CBC News – February 27, 2012

The deadline for RRSP contributions is nearing, but there’s another important investment concern for Muslims — ensuring the products they rely on for their retirement income comply with Islamic principles.
With nearly a million Muslims in Canada, forming nearly three per cent of the country’s population, there has been an emphasis over the last decade in investment products that adhere to the strict dictates of Shariah law.
As a devout Muslim, Mohammad Khalid, a retired economist living in Oakville, Ont., says Muslims must be careful about their investments, such as securities and equities. Khalid, who manages his own portfolio, invests in sectors such as mining, forestry and technology, and is helping his older children save for their retirement. He says that unless Muslim investors are careful about where their money is going, they could end up in non-compliant products.
A testament to the growing interest in Shariah-compliant investing is Standard & Poor’s introduction of its Shariah stock index (S&P/TSX 60 Shariah Index) into the Canadian market in 2009. The index recategorizes equities on the S&P/TSX 60 and excludes all equities that do not comply with Islamic law, which is based on the Qur’an.

Canadian Muslim family endures U.S. border nightmare

News Agencies – February 25, 2012

It was supposed to be a cross-border shopping trip to New York State to break the monotony of a Quebec winter – a Montreal soccer dad, his wife, their adult son and their two youngest children packed in a car, headed toward Plattsburgh. But when the Benaouda family got to the U.S. border, their outing turned into a scene from a bad movie – complete with shouting FBI agents, handcuffs, interrogation and six hours of unexplained detention.

More than a decade after 9/11, Muslim Canadian travellers with no proven links to terrorism continue to be targeted when they fly or try to cross into the U.S. Mohamed Benaouda, a Canadian citizen with Algerian roots who says he has never had any run-ins with the law, was handcuffed, photographed, fingerprinted, held in a cell and interrogated.

Controversial Canadian Muslim preacher deported from Kenya over security concerns

The National Post – Feb 24, 2012

Controversial Canadian Muslim preacher Bilal Philips has been deported from Kenya due to security concerns, hours after he landed in the country for a speaking tour, Nairobi newspapers have reported. “We had to turn him away because he easily mobilizes people using his controversial teachings wherever he goes,” said Njiru Mwaniki, chief of the Anti-Terrorism Police. “This is dangerous to our country.”

A Jamaican-Canadian and now a resident of Qatar, Bilal Philips is a contemporary Islamic scholar, teacher, speaker, and author. Philips founded the Islamic Online University as a completely tuition-free institution that is offering an online intensive, undergraduate, and graduate courses in Islamic Studies. The university offers a four year bachelor of arts degree in Islamic studies program.

Lawsuit alleges workplace quip made Canadian Muslim a terrorist suspect

News Agencies – February 2, 2011

A Quebecois Muslim man alleges he’s become a terror suspect simply because of a workplace quip — he says all he did was tell his sales staff to “blow away” the competition at a trade show. Now Saad Allami is seeking $100,000 from the Quebec provincial police force, one of its sergeants and the provincial Justice Department. Allami says in a Quebec Superior Court filing that he was arrested in January 2011 and accused of being a terrorist because of a pep talk he gave fellow employees.

Allami was a sales manager for a telecommunications firm when he sent out a text message to staff urging them to “blow away” the competition at a New York City convention. He alleges that, three days later, he was arrested without warning by Quebec provincial police and detained for over a day while his house was searched. Allami says he has no links to terrorist organizations or the Islamic movement and that police acted without any evidence or research.