Young, Muslim and Canadian: Torontonians talk about what it’s like to be all three

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What’s it like to be a Muslim in Canada?

A new survey conducted by the Environics Institute asked 600 Muslims about their identity, faith, experience with discrimination, and life in Canada.

The overwhelming majority of Muslims polled, 83 per cent, said they are very proud to be Canadian, an increase of 10 per cent from 2006

When asked to choose, the majority of young Muslims surveyed reported feeling Muslim first and Canadian second. Some Muslims say that finding reflects the struggle to reclaim their identity at a time when many feel pressured to answer for violence being carried out in their name.

CBC News asked some Toronto Muslims to describe their experiences in their own words:

Imaan Waja

young muslim canadians imaan-waja york university student

Imaan Waja, 23, is a nursing and fashion and design student at York University. (CBC)

“For me, I’m Canadian at the same time that I’m Muslim. I’m Muslim at the same time as I’m Canadian… We’re so lucky that in Canada it’s naturally within the Charter that we have the freedom to practice our religion as we so choose…

Being kind, being generous, simple things like entering a room and greeting your elders, those sort of things stem from a lot of the teachings that my parents gave us growing up based on their understanding of Islam… me as a Canadian, that’s part of who I am… I don’t know any different.”

Umair Ali

umair-ali

Umair Ali was born in Pakistan and moved in Canada when he was four years old. He moved back to Pakistan when he was 14 and back to Canada when he was 18. (CBC)

“The people who are committing crimes, they make it bad for all of us… Muslims are at the forefront of fighting terrorism but we’re also at the receiving end of the hardships that come from it.

The rhetoric around Muslims has changed over the past ten years and it’s just forced a lot of people to get more involved in the religion and in the community so that we have a stronger stance against that…”

Sanaa Ali-Mohammed and Sadaf Khan

sanaa-alimohammed-sadaf-khan

Sanaa Ali-Mohammed (left) is a non-profit worker in Mississauga. Sadaf Khan (right) is a teacher at Maingate Islamic Academy, also in Mississauga. (CBC)

“Lately over the past year or two or maybe more, I get the sense that there’s a lot of pushing back against Muslims visibly identifying as Muslim… Associating Muslimness with radicalization, those things are very disturbing to me and I feel like I’m not welcome here or I’m a second-class citizen a lot of the time…

That said, there are people who understand that you are who you are.”

– Sanaa Ali-Mohammed

“Whenever I’ve been outside and wearing the headscarf, personally I have had a positive experience, but I do know of people that are close to me, like a colleague that I used to work who wears the niqab, and her niqab was pulled off just in a mall in Mississauga in broad daylight…

And I know people have racial slurs thrown at them like, ‘Go back home,’ for instance, when they’re just as Canadian as any other person.”

– Sadaf Khan

Farheen Khan

Farheen-Khan

Farheen Khan is the creator of muslimsactually.com, a website created after the Paris terror attacks to help dispel myths about Islam. (CBC)

“We are just as Canadian as anyone else is, but we’re in a position where we’re having to go out of our way to convince people that that’s the case. But I think it’s incumbent on all of us as Canadians that we need to start being more open, that what we see on our TV screens isn’t the person that’s walking down the street or the person that we live next to…

Being Canadian and being Muslim are not mutually exclusive. I can’t choose one over the other. I am both… I choose to identify with my faith but I also choose to — just like everybody else — grab a Tim Hortons in the morning and go to work.”

With files from Natalie Kalata

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