Saturday, 30 July 2016

Slave of Allah gives up racism

Abddul Aziz- Poem on a white convert in prison

I first heard of your story
Riveting people's heart with your tattoo's and angry looks
Now prostrating in front Allah
You claim you cannot do this to anyone lesser than the Almighty

Nowadays I watch you in awe
Smiling and embracing, washing away all the abyss of hatred
Convincing others on the block
While haters wonder what about this non white religion

Making Gucci clothing dyed and styled from tattered patches
Loving the style of Sunnah while tats don't bother you ever
Everyone gets hit on
But Aziz is the beacon of strength among lifers

I wonder where this is going
People come and go always
But Ramadan and every day living is one for this inmate
Abdul Aziz is the slave of the Almighty power!

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Canada Day Fundraiser: Could you make it diverse and inslusive?

This Canada Day I wore a red and white suit. My partner wore a red and white hijab. The national anthem was playing before the call to prayer. Breaking the fast at sunset was when dinner was served because it was in Ramadan.

As I child growing up in Guyana I remember going to the mosque on Eid day with my father. He would fill my pockets with coins early morning after getting dressed in traditional white kamis. I had the distinct pleasure of sharing these coins to the beggars who lined the patio of the mosque. They would spread their hand kerchiefs on the hot concrete. Fast forward decades and I have organised the second Canada Day Iftar in Toronto, hoping to raise funds from empathetic fasting Muslims for water projects in Pakistan and Gaza. Iftar is the meal we partake in while breaking the day-long fast at sunset, usually seventeen hours in Toronto during summer!

It is such a challenge! Doing a fundraiser on Canada Day, eh?

Most people want to celebrate Canada Day during the day, joining the parades or stay at home and watch it on TV, as the summer and fasting don't go too well for Canadians.

Others realised that this year Canada Day falls on the most revered day of Ramadan- the 27th or Night of Power. Arrangements for every prayer were priority.

I had invited the Hon Prime Minister Justin Trudeau but learnt he will not be in Toronto on the Friday but instead on the Saturday for Pride Parade. Now my Facebook friends are no longer confirming. That really sucks. But I did have a sold out event for the second time!

I tried to engage with persons of disabilities in the Muslim community through one of my supporting partners SMILE and booked an ASL translator. Last year it was so much fun watching her translate the Hon Premier of Ontario, Kathleen Wynne's speech.

I am beginning to think of how reverse this is. Most Canadian functions would add samosa on the entree or halal options and would easily qualify to being inclusive and diverse. I have to prove my Ramadan gala is Canadian yet inclusive to many faiths that are attending. I am happy to make my guests happy although my tight budget with a ticket marked at cost price doesn’t make life easy. Our event coordinator is phenomenal in finding discounts and door prizes besides volunteers. It’s coming together with a best dressed female prize by Tru fashions!

Apart from having Reene the Voice sing the Canadian Anthem accompanied by Hurban Johnson on Trinidadian steelpan, I had to make sure the protocol was upheld with the flag. The Hon MP Dr Kristy Duncan, Minister for Science and Innovation attended, dressed in her extraordinary shalwar, the type you see at Eid and she graciously shared her time despite Canada Day demands. She presented two recognition plaques to our volunteers, who worked tirelessly to coordinate the event and raise funds for the lesser fortunate. We actually did well with 66 wells and counting!

I must say our MCs were fabulous as I wanted to debunk the myth that women do not publicly take the stage to MC in Islam. Or co hosts were both a male and a female and they kept the audience alive with their simmered humor and effective time keeping as we had to finish by 10 pm. People were anxious to return to their respective mosques for the night prayers. It happened!

The entertainment for the evening included both Urdu and English songs. Now this is diversity struggling to get included. I had a famous singer in the house that sings Indian songs but chose to do a Ramadan farewell song in Urdu ragas with the steel pan accompanying her - she is Esther Nazmoon Khan. Renee woke up the crowd with her voice!

The cuisine was indeed matching with the elegant Elite Banquet Hall- several halal Indian options were served including vegetarian since we had a diverse attendance.

I didn't want the celebration to be about Muslims only. Ramadan in many countries is known and supported by Non Muslim neighbours and relatives like in India, Guyana and Lebanon. So we had Pundit Basil Maharaj, Rev Alexa Gilmore and Dr Bhante the Budhist Urban Monk present greetings and messages of hope at the Gala. 

As a matter of fact, the highlight of the evening was the presence of Syrian refugee families, celebrating their first Canada Day. They are on record with Rogers TV saying in Arabic that they are thankful and thrilled to be part of such a great country!

The struggles of finding a good speaker who understands Canada and faith and can ascertain the nexus of water wells in Pakistan and fresh water reservoirs in Canada is painstakingly challenging. We had the fortune of having Dr Munir El-Kassem, former Professor at Western Ontario University and Imam in London, as chief guest and indeed he brought home the loaf! Rather we all broke bread after with some dates and spring rolls and lots of mango shake after that generous shake down!

This may be the last Canada Day that falls in Ramadan but for sure it was a blast while it last!

As Muhammad Ali, the Greatest, my Champ said service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.