Teaching religious diversity using “The Faith Project”

In a spectacular TED talk, explorer Wade Davis reflected on the world’s cultures saying, “These myriad voices of humanity are not failed attempts at being modern. They’re unique facets of the human imagination. They’re unique answers to a fundamental question: What does it mean to be human and alive?” We’ve captured just a few of those myriad voices and unique answers in The Faith Project, an interactive documentary exploring the religious diversity of Canada.

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The Beckoning Bell: Resilience and hope in video games and life

After I walk across the stone bridge, there’s a small cobblestoned plaza that forks into winding streets. I turn left, walking in the cramped alleys between old buildings. There are stairs, and an archway, and beyond, the buildings open up to a cemetery. It’s the only way to the old church, where they say there’s a cure for my illness.

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Close Your Eyes: a short story

A shooting star streaked through the clear mustard sky and burst apart, bombarding the plateau and the colony below with shrapnel. After a fragment with a bullet’s velocity shattered a dish on the colony’s communications tower, Arjun decided to climb the tower himself to repair the dish rather than pull construction drones away from their scheduled work.

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Surrender: the upside-down beauty of the word “islam”

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I place my prayer rug on the floor in the direction of Mecca. It came from my grandparents, I think, from the old country. It has been a part of my life since I was a child, a fixture in our home, and now it is threadbare from wear. It’s limp like fresh chapati. The burgundy, velvet fibres fray on the parts of this rug that have cushioned our heels and knees for decades. I smooth out its wrinkles and bumps and imperfections with the brush of a flat, tender palm, like I’m tending a bed of soil in a garden. I sit beside it or on the edge of my bed for a minute or two. I breathe.

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Ayad Akhtar on faith, identity and storytelling

Pulitzer Prize–winner Ayad Akhtar on faith, identity, writing and storytelling.

Ramadan poem by Rumi

O moon-faced Beloved,
the month of Ramadan has arrived
Cover the table
and open the path of praise.

O fickle busybody,
it’s time to change your ways.
Can you see the one who’s selling the halvah
how long will it be the halvah you desire?

Just a glimpse of the halvah-maker
has made you so sweet even honey says,
“I’ll put myself beneath your feet, like soil;
I’ll worship at your shrine.”

Your chick frets within the egg
with all your eating and choking.
Break out of your shell that your wings may grow.
Let yourself fly.

The lips of the Master are parched
from calling the Beloved.
The sound of your call resounds
through the horn of your empty belly.

Let nothing be inside of you.
Be empty:  give your lips to the lips of the reed.
When like a reed you fill with His breath,
then you’ll taste sweetness.

Sweetness is hidden in the Breath
that fills the reed.
Be like Mary – by that sweet breath
a child grew within her.

–Rumi (via Darvish)

A vulnerable God, and surrender

We’re currently producing a show featuring Jean Vanier, a wise old man who has spent his life doing charity work with mentally disabled individuals around the world. Although he’s Christian, his words and his gentleness are unsettling in their beauty and have given me plenty to think about as a Muslim. His notions of God’s vulnerability, in particular, make me understand the word islam better than I ever have. (I’m going to delve into the kind of theological matters I don’t typically discuss. I mean, yes, I do talk about religion often enough, but my own spiritual bent is difficult for me to pin down, even though I’m coming from an Islamic perspective. So I’ll be talking about God as a reality more than I usually do. That’s even uncomfortable for me to do because I think God is something that we are incapable of talking about well using language. It’s awkward, and language is limiting because of its precision and linearity. I’ll be addressing that awkwardness in this post, as well.) Read more

Approaching Ed Husain and The Islamist

One person we’re pursuing for an interview is Ed Husain, British Muslim and author of the controversial book The Islamist. We have a copy of his book at the office, and I picked it up and read it voraciously over the past few days. This upcoming show is one I desperately want us to get right.

Let’s talk a bit about the book first. I’m going to drop a few spoilers, so if you’re planning to read it, I suggest you skip ahead a bit (or even wait until you’ve read the book). Read more

At The Corner of Crescent and Sainte-Catherine

The cosmopolitan city of Montreal is home to immigrants from every corner of the world, including a vibrant Muslim community. But how will Muslims react when a government commission addresses the misplaced discontent of non-Muslims toward this growing, visible community? Read more

The zero-sum game of reasonable accommodation

Over the course of the past few weeks, I’ve been busy writing my article for ISNA’s Islamic Horizons magazine, looking at the Muslim community of Montreal. I have a few smaller focus pieces to finish up, but the main article is out of my hands now. It will be appearing in the November-December issue of the magazine, at which time I will also post the article up here.In the meantime, I thought I’d just share a couple of thoughts on one of the main themes that came up during interviews I had with various people: reasonable accommodation. Read more