Debate about Muslim prayer emerges in Eid celebrations at Metro Toronto Convention Centre

Toronto Star – August 30, 2011


The debate over Muslim prayers at a Toronto school wove its way into Eid al-Fitr celebrations on at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Speaking to a crowd of more than 10,000 gathered, Jamal Badawi, a prominent author on Islam, called attempts to stop the Friday prayers at Valley Park Middle School a form of “secular fundamentalism.” Critics, including several religious groups, have condemned the school for allowing an imam to conduct prayer services for Muslim students in the cafeteria.

The festival, which includes carnival rides and a bazaar, has been organized by the Muslim Association of Canada for 26 years. Premier Dalton McGuinty made a brief appearance, thanking the attendees for their contributions to the province’s economy and culture. Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath also addressed the crowd.

Squash prodigy flees Taliban for Toronto

Toronto Star – August 13, 2011


Maria Toorpakai Wazir picked up a squash racquet at age 12 in rural Pakistan and discovered her talent for the game, she was in another kind of fight entirely. That’s when the death threats started. Not long after she went pro, her father found a letter on the windshield of his car. He says it was from the Taliban. It said he must make his daughter stop playing.

Since March, Toorpakai has been living in Toronto, training with Canada’s own squash legend, Jonathon Power. He says Toorpakai will soon be the best in the world. Her father has been long deplored by other tribal men for his ideas about equality. He believes everyone is invested with talent and in tribal women in Pakistan, it’s going to waste. In Toorpakai’s family, both daughters were home-schooled. But from the time her older sister was 8 years old, custom dictated that she stay indoors. Toorpakai, on the other hand, more closely resembled her four brothers, so the family acted as if it had five sons.

“At first I was brave,” she says. “But the more I came to learn about these things, it’s the biggest dishonour to the family if somebody kidnaps your girl. If it happened, my father would never be able to lift his hand. So I stayed at home.” Unable to properly train during her late teens, Toorpakai has fallen in the rankings since her peak in 2008. She is currently 179th worldwide. But Power believes she has what it takes to be the best.

Creator of “Little Mosque on the Prairie” Describes Canadian Post 9/11 Context

The Toronto Star – August 6, 2011


Zarqa Nawaz, creator of the television hit Little Mosque on the Prairie, reflects on the situation of Canadian Muslims in this feature article about her family during the month of Ramadan. The freelance filmmaker and TV comedy writer worries when the extended family comes home about the “way things look.” “You can’t make a mistake — you will be judged.”

As for Muslims in Canada, life is not perfect, says Abdul-Basit Khan, a Toronto lawyer and past chair of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Canada. But, adds Khan, if you look at the experience of co-religionists in Europe and some parts of the U.S., “there isn’t a better country in which to be a Muslim.” Nawaz says 9/11 forced Muslims, and other religious minorities, out of their “bubble” world and to engage the greater community as never before. In charity work, for example, they moved beyond supporting only Muslim causes. “Never was there a time in history when it was so important to be active and prove to the world that we care,” says Nawaz. She also pays tribute to Canadian tolerance. “I believe that Little Mosque on the Prairie could not have been made in any other country,” says Nawaz, 43.