Muslims are constantly in the news in Canada, but unfortunately, often in the context of controversy. How does this affect young Canadian Muslims opinions about themselves, their community and others? «Me, the Muslim Next Door» is a bilingual, audiovisual webdoc that provides a platform for young Canadian Muslims to speak for themselves on life issues such as love, religion, culture, politics, community, and family.
A webdoc by Oussayma Canbarieh
Directed by Hector Vilar
The webseries «Me, the Muslim Next Door» introduces you to Dania, Eduardo, Jamilla, Laila, Mehdi, Rizwan and Suad, seven young Canadian Muslims living in Montreal and Toronto.
We invite you to experience their reality through 24 segments of video, audio, and photos that shed light on what it's like to be young, Canadian and Muslim. Enjoy a total of more than 120 minutes of content that breaks down stereotypes and delves into their personal stories.
Jamilla is a Somali immigrant living in Toronto. She first introduces us to her close-knit family at their home for Sunday night dinner. We then follow her to work at Africans in Partnership Against AIDS, meet two of Jamilla's friends as they discuss challenges facing Somali youth and explore her civic and community engagements.
Jamilla Mohamud was born in Mogadishu, Somalia. Due to internal strife in the country, in 1988, her family fled to Holland as refugees and then settled in Toronto, when she was six years old. She is an easy-going, happy and caring individual who works hard to reach her goals. She has a Bachelor of Science degree and currently works for the organization, «Africans in Partnership Against AIDS», as an Outreach Coordinator working within the many African communities in Toronto, including the Somali community. She uses education as an energizing mechanism to effect change in her community, and is grateful that her family encouraged her to develop extra-curricular activities along with her academic interests. She takes pride in her rich religious and cultural heritage and wants to use her personal experiences to motivate young people to reach their goals in Canada, which she believes is filled with tremendous opportunities.
One Afghan Shiite refugee from Toronto plus one Moroccan Sunni immigrant from Montreal equals the recently married couple of Mehdi and Laila. They speak about how they met on Facebook, Muslim marriage, and their relationship. Laila introduces us to her father in Toronto, a former dentist in Kabul who is now a taxi driver, and back in Montreal, we witness her effort to integrate into her new home in Quebec.
EL MEHDI ZEROUALI OUARITI
El Mehdi Zerouali Ouariti was born and raised in Casablanca, Morocco. In 2001, when he was 16, his parents decided that Canada would be their next home. He had a comfortable life in Morocco but his family had ambitions of a better future in Canada, choosing Quebec because of their French-speaking background. In Montreal, Mehdi met many inspiring people and he began to display his passion for art through social networks. It was through his work in politically oriented graphic design and religious groups on Facebook that he connected with Laila Sherdel. They married in June 2010. He studied Fine Arts with a Major in Design at Concordia University and continues to do graphic and interior design. Currently, Mehdi is working in the investment field while completing his Masters in Management at McGill University.
Laila Sherdel was born in Kabul, Afghanistan. She was just four months old when her family was forced to flee the country during the Soviet invasion in 1985. They escaped into Pakistan by camel, donkey and on foot. Her parents held significant positions in Afghan society, and had to disguise themselves while in Pakistan to avoid being recognized. This obligation to hide what they had worked so hard to achieve in order to protect themselves and the family was an emotional roller coaster for Laila's parents. They spent approximately a year in Pakistan before being sponsored in 1986 by Laila's uncle who was living in Quebec at the time. The family later moved to Toronto, where Laila grew up. She returned to Quebec when she married El Mehdi Zerouali Ouariti. Laila studied Political Science at the University of Windsor and is now polishing her French skills to pursue a career in government, while working at a Montreal bank. She is passionate about books and literature and is thinking of writing a book about her journey and the story of what Afghanistan was and what it has become.
Eduardo converted to Islam four years ago, after having spent many years distrustful of Muslims. Since then, he has been integrating into his new community and sharing his new religion with his Brazilian family and old friends, learning Arabic and delving into the life stories of other converts, like Malcolm X.
Eduardo Alves Dos Anjos was born in São Paulo, Brazil and raised in Montreal. However, he prefers to consider himself a citizen of the world. He is currently studying at Concordia University's John Molson School of Business where he's working towards his Bachelor's degree. He tries to maintain a balance in life between meditation and prayer, and his hobbies of jogging, capoeira (Brazilian martial art) and reading, as well as his academic studies. He also volunteers with the Concordia University Muslim Students Association in their community work and organization of Islamic events. Eduardo is greatly inspired by philosophy and has a deep intolerance towards injustice and human suffering. He aspires to be more active in human rights organizations and would like to become a firefighter.
We assist to Dania's 23rd birthday celebration, where there is no alcohol and only women are present. She introduces us to her French-Canadian mother, who converted to Islam more than 20 years ago, and then takes us to her Eritrean father's home, where we witness the different outlooks of first and second generations. Later, she makes decisions about her life after graduation from law school.
Dania Suleman was born and raised in Longueuil and Brossard, on the south shore across from Montreal, but received all her education in Montreal itself. Her mother is a French Canadian convert to Islam and her father is from Eritrea. Dania studied pure and applied sciences at College de Maisonneuve and Civil Law at the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM). She is currently working towards becoming a lawyer. She loves being around people and friends, laughing and enjoying life, acquiring knowledge, and keeping up on current affairs. She enjoys walking outside, immersing herself in work and discovering the world through travel.
Suad explains why she decided to wear the hijab, and how her mother's passing has influenced her life choices. She introduces us to her husband Karim, and we visit Suad's Arabic Saturday school class. While raising money for a humanitarian organization, Suad tells us how she experienced discrimination as a visible Muslim in Montreal.
Suad Saher Bushnaq is an Arab-Canadian of mixed heritage. She was born and grew up in Amman, Jordan, to a Syrian mother and a Palestinian-Bosnian father. Suad started playing the piano at a very young age and when she moved to Syria at the age of 18, she continued her studies in music at the Higher Institute of Music in Damascus. She spent three and a half years in Syria, before immigrating to Canada with her family in 2004. Suad continued her music studies, this time specializing in Music Composition at McGill University after receiving an entrance scholarship, and graduated in 2009. She is currently a piano teacher and freelance composer, an Arabic language teacher at a Saturday school in Montreal, and is pursuing a degree in Education in order to get her certification as a school teacher. Suad's hobbies include photography, biking, swimming, writing, and interior design. She is passionate about composing, playing the piano, teaching social justice, and media literacy. She speaks four languages and adores conversation. Her favorite time of the year is Ramadan. As an assignment for her Media Technology and Education class, Suad recently produced a website called Unveiling Islamophobia with ten lesson plans to teach and reflect about Islamophobia in the classroom.
Rizwan has met with hundreds of young Canadian Muslims while working on the «Muslim Youth Canada Project», and he introduces us to some of these young people at a workshop. We later meet his family, get a glimpse into what it was like for him to grow up as a Muslim in Canada, and discuss radicalization, the media, and young Muslims' relationship with Canadian security agencies.
Rizwan Mohammad's parents were born in India, educated in Pakistan and immigrated to Canada in the late 1970s. Born in Toronto, Rizwan grew up speaking Urdu and English in a Muslim household. He studied Arabic, Persian and Islamic History at the University of Toronto and Islamic Philosophy at McGill University in Montreal. From May 2009 to March 2011, Rizwan coordinated the Muslim Youth Canada Project. This was a youth-led national service learning initiative of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW). The project was to develop a co-ordinated strategy aimed at strengthening plural identities and increasing civic engagement of Canadian Muslim youth. Rizwan is currently writing a book about his travels across Canada and his experiences with Canadian Muslim youth while working as a Research Associate at Carleton University's Centre for the Study of Islam in Ottawa. He opposes the reign of quantity, forgets anything anywhere, and ties his shoelaces very slowly.