Canadian Muslim artists talk about identity

The Globe and Mail – July 4, 2011
This article profiles three Canadian Muslim artists: Sabrina Jalees, a lesbian comic of Pakistani-Swiss heritage who grew up in Toronto; Yassin Alsalman, a Montreal rapper known as The Narcicyst who uses the aggressive language of hip hop to denounce the heavy hand of U.S. Homeland Security and the war in Iraq; Boonaa Mohammed, a spoken word poet of Ethiopian extraction who celebrates Islamic history in his artwork when he is not teaching at an Islamic school in Scarborough, Ont.
But people who want to blend in rarely become artists: Jalees, who points out she could pass for Portuguese, began making jokes about her Pakistani heritage because she wanted to confront people’s new discomfort with Muslims.
The artists disagree about how well this work is received in Canada and how much Canadian attitudes are shifting. Alsalman, for example, argues that racism is still very prevalent and that the image of Muslims is generally a negative one; others perceive a gradual change in attitudes since the panic of 2001, precisely because people have been forced to confront the prejudices expressed against Muslims, and add that the popular rebellions of the Arab spring have helped build a more positive and diverse image.