Can I Have a Side of Islam With That?

It struck me about a month ago that I've changed. Upon catching up with a colleague I hadn't seen in about a year, we started chatting and she pointed out how much my viewpoint about our Muslim community had changed. She was right. But it wasn't until it was pointed out that I realized it.

Last year, the word that would describe my view point best was "Muslimization". I was all for creating Muslim-led social services in the city, for Muslims providing services to Muslims, and for our *organized* community to step it up to help their own people. Ha, I was thoroughly naive!

A year later, I realize that this didn't get me very far, stressed me out more than anything else in my life, and led me to burn out. I knew it was time to shift.

What I've come to realize over the past year is that Muslims are no different than other humans. In fact, we are the same as everyone else except that we view our lives through an Islamic lens. As part of the human condition, we are wired the same as others, we yearn for the same love and respect that others desire, and we want to feel appreciated and that we are contributing something to our society. Islam overall takes a very humanistic view, and it is this that makes me draw closer to my faith.

For non-Muslims to provide various services to Muslims, there is a spectrum of how much Islamic knowledge/understanding is needed and this depends on the service being provided. For example, my hairstylist and yoga instructor need not be Muslim, since Islam is not brought up during these circumstances. However, my pre-marital counsellor I would hope would be Muslim OR has a working knowledge about Islam and can infuse this knowledge into their practice. Given that there is less than a handful of professional Muslims within the social services realm, I am not holding my breath for a Muslim pre-marital counsellor (who KNOWS what they are talking about) to surface anytime soon in this city.

And no offense to our community, but there are many things that non-Muslims do better at anyway, since they've been doing it for longer. I have heard echoes over the past year to start a Muslim-only women's shelter. To be honest, I was shocked when I heard this news. First of all, Muslims have big mouths and lack self-control around gossiping (sorry, it's true!) would confidentiality be ensured? Who would run such an endeavour? Why is there a need for Muslim only shelters...can't women pray and maintain their Islamic practice within a secular women's shelter? And let's not forget the legal side of working with those who are fleeing their abusive spouses.

Part of the reason many Muslims live here, including myself and my family, is because we are able to live our religious lives while still achieving balance with Canadian society. We are blessed with freedoms here, with rights and responsibilities, and with the ability to be Muslim and Canadian at the same time. Re-inventing the wheel to make everything Islamicized is a waste of time, resources, and energy since the same investment can be made into educating others about catering to the needs of Muslims. And from my own experiences, many agencies and associations are looking to get into working with more Muslims and are thirsty for this information.

This is not to say that we don't educate others about Islam. In fact, we should keep doing this. Cardel Place is allowing us to run women only Zumba sessions once a week, and it was THEM who approached me with this idea in the first place. And since all but a few Muslims have dropped out, a religiously diverse group of women have joined and it's great! A provincial school counsellor's association has asked myself and a colleague to present about demystifying Islam and how school counsellors can FIGHT Islamophobia among youth...again, we were approached and not vice versa. There are plenty of opportunities out there to educate service providers and those who work with Muslims about our needs. But this is not to say that Muslims need to be segregated into a different category and be provided with Muslim-only services.

So if this entry makes you think about our community and the unrealistic expectation that we will be self-sufficient with everything we need, then I've accomplished my goal!

And God knows best.


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