Khanversations

Rukhsana’s thoughts on her journey of life, writing and sometimes—when she dares—a bit of politics.
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Thinking about Creativity…

I’m giving a keynote address this Saturday at the SCBWI Canada east conference in Montreal, and my topic is creativity and the creative process, so I’ve been thinking about it a lot.

Whenever I am to do something like this, I always think of the audience. What do they need to hear? What would I want to know if I was sitting there listening to me?

It’s not about me. It’s about them.

It doesn’t help that my head is muzzy because I’m sick, sick, sick.

Been working too hard, stressing myself out, and plus Ramadan begins on Saturday so I might very well be fasting.

I am exempt because of the traveling, but hey, that would mean I’d need to make up the fast and that’s just so hard.

But if I’m still feeling sick and I’m traveling, well then, it just makes sense to take the exemption and make it up!

So I will.

Thinking of the creative process makes me go back to how I created my best work and how I approach my new projects. So much of it comes down to taking out the ego, getting past the marketing and whether anyone will want to read this, but rather exploring a story because something about it drives your own curiosity. You just can’t help it.

What kind of head space do you need to be in in order to approach your project with the right attitude?

I find ego is a definite no-no. Don’t let your imagination start going wild with all the awards and recognition you might get. That’s like the worst thing  you can do!

Doesn’t it have to be about curiosity?

And yet can’t you eventually get ‘too enlightened’ for mass appeal?

Face it, what author doesn’t want their work to have mass appeal? To be read widely? And yet a lot of mass appeal books are quite shallow because they’re appealing to the lowest common denominator. I remember reading Gone Girl after watching the movie because part of the movie just didn’t make sense to me. It still doesn’t. The whole reasoning for the guy to stay with ‘Amazing Amy’ at the end just doesn’t make sense, and maybe that’s part of the appeal of the story? I don’t know.

I thought the book might be more elucidating but nope, it’s where the story breaks down for me. But there seems to be something in the author who insisted on that turn of events. For her, it was probably the point. That this married  couple is bound together in a dysfunctional push-pull kind of relationship but her commentary on the media and the way stories are spun was what I found most fascinating.

I think that’s what I’ll focus on. The approach to story.

It should be interesting!

I just wish my head was clearer but then it’s only been a couple of days of the antibiotics and I should have enough time by Saturday to feel better insha Allah.

 

 

High School Trauma…

Met a very interesting librarian this week.

He spoke of how the librarians who are the most gung ho about bringing diversity and inclusion to their schools are often the ones who were ‘outsiders’ when they were growing up.

I’ve been thinking a lot about ‘outsiders’ these days. From S. E. Hinton’s iconic novel to all kinds of ways this ‘outsidering’ is still going on.

So many ideas, so many observations are whirling around in my mind. If I could just settle down and capture them in simple stories, that would be great!

So while I was waiting for the kids to arrive for my presentation, I was looking at those spinning paperback book holders so many libraries have. Looking at the titles, many of which I’d read and thinking so many of them were rather simple stories and not all that good. And then I caught myself. Was I being snobbish?

Hmm.

Possibly.

And yet they’d accomplished something that has eluded me lately and I got to thinking of how you can ‘overthink’ things.

During one of our conversations, I spoke to a librarian who’d also been bullied in high school, as I was. He told me how the captain of the football team had taunted him in front of his girlfriend. He’d held a knife to his throat wanting him to pee his pants in front of the girlfriend.

Such cruelty!

Oh the things we survive!

During the first week of grade nine, I can’t remember what they called it but it was kind of like frosh week. It’s usually a week of friendly pranks that the grade nine students have to participate in or else they’ll be punished in some way. I remember we had to wear our clothes inside out one day. I didn’t, so I got punished.

At the end of the week the students who didn’t comply and had the most points against them were sold as ‘slaves’. I remember I got ‘sold’ for about $1.50 and the worst thing my ‘master’ made me do (a tall guy with curly blond hair) was stand on a cafeteria table and sing O Canada. Then someone suggested I do it with a cherry tomato in my mouth, and so the cherry tomato was added.

That was about it.

Some people would find that incredibly embarrassing but I actually didn’t mind that much. I guess even back then I had the ‘performer’ bug in me.

But then I heard of what they did to this small Jewish guy. Some guys decided it would be hilarious to dangle him by his ankles out the third story window.  I can’t imagine!

When the librarian was telling me about the knife incident I remembered what another teacher had told me who’d also been brutalized. She said that all her attackers were now unemployed nobodies.

And I wasn’t surprised. And it occurred to me that maybe they do that because they’re jealous of the brainy kids.

Hmmm.

So much to consider! So much to observe.

I’m sure it’ll find its way somehow into the next project.

Sometimes I think it’s a wonder we even make it to adulthood!

Being of use to those around you…

In Islam we believe that when someone dies the angels go around recording ‘witness statements’ from others on what the person was really like.

There’s a sentiment I remember reading in Western fiction that echoes this idea, referring to not speaking ill of the dead.

It’s best to just keep quiet if you didn’t like the person who died because anything you say against them will work against them.

Last Sunday a friend of mine died.

It was so strange. She’s not that close, I suppose. Hadn’t seen her in years and yet all of the week before, I kept thinking of her, thinking I should call her and invite her over for lunch, and then, being busy, I never did.

Last Sunday morning the weather was fine, so we, as a family went for a walk. Oh the sky was blue, the gentle breeze smelled fresh, of spring.

My friend went walking too. In Dundas, the town in which I grew up, and where she lived. And when she was done with her hike, she turned to another friend of mine, said a few words, then collapsed and died of a heart attack.

Quite a nice way to go if you ask me. On a beautiful day, after a lovely walk, to just have a heart attack and die…

I wouldn’t mind.

And then there was the outpouring of shock and disbelief from all her other friends.

She was only 69.

That used to be quite old to me, but now, as I get closer to the age, it’s not that bad.

Contrast that to what I read online about a celebrity I do follow sometimes. Mostly because I think she’s interesting.

She’s quite the bully, and she’s quite stupid, she’s probably going to jail for trying to defraud the government of taxes. She was caught hiding about three quarters of a million dollars from bankruptcy court. I’m talking about Abby Lee Miller.

Hey, before you judge, everyone has their vices and yeah, watching her on Dance Moms is one of mine. *g*

When my family members would accost me saying why I would watch such a trashy show, I tried to explain it’s about understanding an alien mindset. The people on the show, the loud vulgar Abby Lee and the loud vulgar dance moms are so alien to me. They’re so driven in pushing their children forward to make them all famous, it’s quite disgusting and quite fascinating at the same time.

It’s not something I was every exposed to. My parents never dreamed of doing anything like that! We had quite a ‘boring’ unremarkable childhood and I think that’s important! Why pressure children into an adult competitive mindset at such a young age!!! Goodness no wonder so many child actors become deranged!

Anyway, Abby Lee is fifty years old, obese and she was supposed to go under the knife for weight loss surgery and she complained that she had nobody in her life that cared whether she lived or died.

Her parents and dog are dead. And she’s alienated about everyone else.

And I just couldn’t feel sorry for her.

And this past week I was wondering what people would say about her if she died, and then I wondered what they’d say about me.

I think it’s so important to live your life in a way that you do no harm to anyone else.

The older I get, the more apt I am to let go personal injury. If someone hurts me or uses me badly, I just move on for the most part. I try not to think about them. I just avoid them and chalk it up to them not being trustworthy.

The older I get the more I seem to realize that holding onto anger and grudges just isn’t worth the energy! It’s so true that the best revenge is living well!

And especially when I deal with family members who betray me, I take the approach that I do my best to minimize any impact that untrustworthy individuals can have on my life, but for the most part I avoid them and just make sure that I don’t do anything wrong to them.

I don’t want to ‘owe’ them in any way if you get what I mean. It’s okay if they’ve been horrid to me. I can forgive that. But I don’t want to be in the wrong toward them.

And I’d rather err on the side of personal injury than having done them an injustice.

I find it’s a pretty nice way to live. Very peaceful for the most part. Of course I’m not perfect. But I do my best.

And with all the hard work I’ve been expending, I’m finally seeing some results!

So perhaps some good news to share soon insha Allah.

In the mean time, just keep on keeping on.

Peace out.

Juggling, juggling…

It feels like it’s been a while since I posted, and it’s because I’ve been busy with writing.

When the writing is going well… the blogging gets sidelined. I guess it’s understandable.

It’s been such an interesting past few weeks.

That it’s been very busy, goes without saying.

And yet I find myself doing a lot of contemplating.

Looking at what really makes a story stand out, what really makes someone sit up and take notice.

More and more I seem attracted to the subtleties.

I think subtly showing a person’s character is so much more effective than blatant stuff.

I decided to write a biography.

Me!

A fiction writer!

But it was just such a compelling story! I couldn’t resist.

It’s basically a real story with a fascinating villain and a story arc. The villain made me so furious! And yet he doesn’t actually do anything ‘wrong’.

Isn’t that weird?

Isn’t that fascinating?

I thought so.

I decided to make it the crux of my story.

And I resisted every temptation to deride him for it.

I thought no, I have to understate it. It’s a much more powerful way to tell the story.

Understate. Let the reader feel the impact of the myriad ways this person is controlling and destroying the life of the other.

I found with all the stuff happening in the media, I’ve been turning more and more to my work. It’s almost a comfort.

You can’t concoct such glaring stupidity in a work of fiction than what is transpiring in real life politics these days.

In fiction, nobody would give someone who’s unethical and incompetent such a high position in government.

After I finished the biography and sent it out to be judged on merit, I pulled out a recent project and found myself really enjoying it!

I was surprised.

Didn’t expect to like it that much.

It didn’t even feel like I’d written it!

And it kept reminding me of what happened to L.M. Montgomery. I heard she’d put some story ideas, written on snippets of paper in a box in the closet, and one day while she was looking for something to write about, she took out the box and saw one of the snippets about a girl who comes by mistake to an old couple on a farm, and she thought something like, “hmm. that looks interesting.” She started writing it and it became Anne.

I’m still waiting for something like that to happen. But I know it’s beyond my control.

All I can do, is write the best I can.

In the meantime, I’m just enjoying the story.

The process.

And trying to make it shine.

It’s not easy.

 

 

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I think the most charming situation I’ve ever encountered has to do with people trying to outdo each other in politeness!

I mean talk about rivalry! That’s something to strive for!

I went to a school recently, they were having a multicultural festival and I guess I was part of it.

At the beginning, when they were introducing me, my host, a Parent Volunteer, got the kids to say ‘Assalaamu alaikum.’ It means “Peace be on you.”

Of course they mangled it a bit, but gee! The gesture was so cute!!!

I replied to them, “Wa alaikum assalam.” ‘On you be peace too.” and translated for them.

Then during lunch my host told me about a Japanese tradition that apparently the Japanese way of handing someone your card is to do with with both hands, and it’s considered impolite if you take it with only one hand. And before you put it away, you should look at the card. Anything else is rude.

I thought that was so interesting.

The Japanese are kind of known for their politeness and I socked it away as a piece of information to apply if and when dealing with Japanese people.

It didn’t occur to me to wonder if my host was Japanese Canadian.

And then in the rush of leaving, and I gave her my card, I used only one hand. And she said something about ‘two’ and I said, “Oh I don’t do that.” And then I remembered, and I realized what I’d done, and it was almost too late to say anything, even though I should have.

That was a few days ago, and it’s been bugging me ever since.

It’s a little gesture, and it would have meant a lot.

But I’d had no idea she was actually Japanese, I thought she just knew the cultural tradition like she’d known the Muslim greeting. Yes she looked Asian, but I didn’t assume she was. And we were in a ‘Canadian’ setting. But still…

I will get over it.

And I will chalk it up to experience for next time.

It was a small thing, one of those things that happens way faster than I can describe it.

Sigh.

And maybe I’m being hard on myself, my intentions were definitely not to cause any sort of offense. And the biggest thing I learned from the whole incident is how easy it is to inadvertently offend.

I meet a LOT of people who are super polite, and it occurs to me in those exchanges with each other we each are trying to vie for being the most polite.

Not in any sort of bad way, but in a good way.

I put this out there to counter some of the negativity and hate in the world.

We can choose what we focus on.

I like to focus on the positive.

Be aware of the negative, but strive for the positive.

Life’s just a bit more fun that way.

 

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Trials versus Punishments…

I was talking to my mom recently and she said something that surprised me.

She said that you can tell when God is testing you versus punishing you based on your own behavior.

She said during a trial, you are behaving correctly, within God’s parameters, you’re not doing anything wrong but you’re still not getting the results you might want. That’s a trial.

And a punishment comes I guess, when you’re doing something very wrong.

I heard elsewhere that when that kind of thing happens, it means that God wants you to pray more, call on Him more. He wants you to connect with Him more.

I often find inspiration from the people around me.

I know people who patiently wait, and wait, and wait for something they really want.

They never stop asking God for it.

They keep asking, and even when they don’t receive it, they don’t get fed up and think OK, forget it then! No, they just keep on praying and doing what’s right, and keep on asking with hope. And eventually, long after the time line they had in mind passes, they do receive what they wanted.

Recently I received a rejection on a project I had high hopes for.

It happens.

A lot.

And I felt like saying, “Okay God. Doesn’t mean I’m going to stop. I’ll keep on keeping on.”

It really helped that I had other projects I was also invested in.

And it meant that I needed to send this project out to other publishers. Other places.

And perhaps I need to resist second guessing myself on whether it’s really that good.

And maintain my belief that yes, it is.

They just couldn’t see it.

I was wondering if I would cry.

Sometimes that helps.

I have found that pretending to be stoic when something really upsets you can be a useless exercise. It will make the hurt linger.

In the past, when something really awful happened, I’d often give myself a time to cry, and be sad. Let the disappointment and pain of rejection or whatever negative feeling I was having, flow over me, don’t hold back. Let the tears flow and pretty soon I found that they stopped on their own.

I’d tell myself go ahead, cry some more, but then, funnily enough, I couldn’t. The tears were gone. The sadness was subsiding.

I was okay.

I still didn’t like what had happened, but it wasn’t the end of the world.

And then I’d pick myself up and continue.

This time, the tears wouldn’t even come. I just kind of shrugged and got back to work.

Not sure what to make of that.

I also gave myself permission to ask for what I really want. I want to be world famous. I want my work to influence hearts and minds towards turning to their Lord and Creator or whatever they might call Him.

I want my books and stories to encourage all people to be their best selves, and do good towards each other.

And yeah, I want to make a lot of money while doing that!

What’s wrong with money??? Nothing!

And with it you can do a LOT of good!

So after talking to my mom, I realized this was a trial. I’m doing everything I can that’s right, and I’m still not getting the result I want. So this is a test, a trial, and I’ll just keep on.

Even then, I’m fortunate.

It’s not a punishment!

And I’m still doing fairly well in a field that’s getting increasingly difficult!

 

Just got back from three days presenting in Kingston, Ontario, and I’m feeling a good kind of tired.

It’s the kind of tired when you know you’ve given it your all, and you have high hopes that you changed a few minds and did some good.

I visited six schools, in three days, did eight presentations, and saw about nine hundred kids.

It’s funny how people first view me.

I had to collect some pictures of me ‘in action’ for promotional purposes.

And I always gravitate to this one photographer in India who took some amazing photographs of me ‘in action’ when I was presenting at the Bookaroo conference. That was in 2013, and I visited four cities in India: Delhi, Bangalore, Pune and Amritsar.

I think Shyam saw me in Delhi and he caught me in the throes of storytelling.

Now usually I don’t like seeing photographs of me storytelling because I make some pretty funny faces! But somehow he captured me at my most raw! And I love the photos!

You can see his album here: https://plus.google.com/photos/111439383080007025766/album/5949645780619793665/5949645813647969170

I absolutely love the photos! But then when I saw a comment on there, saying I looked like a ‘caricature’, I was shaken.

Do I?

Really?

And then I thought, well I guess if you only look at the photos, yeah, I might. And I kind of shrugged it off.

I do believe you have to risk looking foolish when you storytell. Otherwise you’re not giving it your all. And if people judge you just by a photo, then they’ll miss out.

People often make assumptions when they first see me.

I think it’s the hijab.

It comes with a LOT  of baggage!

But then I get in front of the kids and I’m just myself and almost inevitably, I have them for the entire time I’m doing the presentation.

Yesterday I had a very challenging group of kids.

I think there were a lot of behavioral and learning disabled students in the group and they were disruptive.

When a couple of boys started play fighting in front of me, I had no choice but to ask them to stop.

But mostly I’ve learned you need to ignore that kind of behavior in such a situation and forge on, ramp up your presentation so it becomes so engaging that the kids have to stop disrupting and listen.

It took a long time for that to happen. It was some time during the telling of Big Red Lollipop that they finally settled down.

I mean there were kindergarten to grade two, so that’s four year olds to about seven year olds.

I didn’t take it personally when a few of the kids were lolling around on the floor, but even those guys, were listening!

What you have to remember in these kinds of less than ideal situations, is that despite the appearances, there are still going to be quite a few kids who are listening, and will get a lot out of the presentation.

Sure enough, at the end so many kids came up to me and asked questions and told me how much they’d enjoyed it and a teacher asked me if I was a teacher because of the wonderful way I’d handled the kids.

That was quite a compliment! I told her no, I’m not a teacher! And she said, but you managed them so beautifully!

Ah, and here I was, thinking it was a disaster!

I’m so hard on myself!

If the kids aren’t transfixed, completely immobile, then I think it’s a disaster. Oh I’ve got to stop being so hard on myself.

Just a few nights ago, while I was in Kingston, I received an email from a student I’d seen fifteen years ago on International Women’s day!

She’s now a young woman studying in Berlin and she wrote me such a moving letter, of how my presentation that she’d attended FIFTEEN years ago, had moved her!!!

Wow.

I’m still wondering how I will respond. I need to tell her how much her letter meant to me. How sometimes you get comments like you’re a ‘caricature’ and you need to let them go and remember the big picture!

Kingston was an amazing experience.

And I came away from it thinking that initiatives like this is why we don’t have a lot of disenfranchisement in Canada and we’re more accepting of each other. We’re not as racist as we could be.

The school boards actually try to be inclusive!

So the day after, I’m exhausted, but quite happy. Alhamdu lillah.

I really love what I do!

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Sensitive times…

I recently had an experience that really gave me quite a jolt.

With it being Black History month I came across an image of a woman who was lynched (hanged) and what had happened to her. This was less than a hundred years ago, and it got me thinking about my own growing up in the small town of Dundas, Ontario.

Oh Canadians can be so gosh darn smug!!!

But really we’re no better.

I made a comment about how this lynching had happened still within the period of a person’s life span. Not that long ago, and I remember growing up in the ’60’s and ’70’s and feeling like I was less because of the color of my skin.

It was just the norm. And then when I did meet some white people who were a bit kinder (ie. not as rude) it was like internally they congratulated themselves on being open-minded enough to show me basic human decency.

I mean, I didn’t complain! I took whatever crumbs I could get, but somehow their condescension and patronizing was about as offensive as the blatant racism.

Well I posted it, without thinking, on Facebook, and then a friend messaged me, telling me how it had deeply affected him, pushed him close to the edge. That life was so horrible, he was constantly on the verge of depression.

And finally I got it!

We have to be very careful with what we post.

So many people are struggling, with depression and other mental illness, that a story like the one I’d callously posted can send them over the edge.

The thing is, with me, such stories are very sad, and horrible tragedies, but they make me feel all the more determined to work against such ideas!

They motivate me!

I know there’s a lot of horror in the world, but what gives me hope is that there’s so much good!

It depends on what we wish to focus on.

Anyway, it was a lesson learned.

We need to be sensitive, give warning, so that people can decide for themselves if they want to witness something on social media.

 

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Dealing with Different Cultures…

I recently received an email from a person in Australia asking about a specific unpleasant incident she’d had with a Muslim couple.

What was the protocol?

Ever since I wrote an article on my website about Muslim Etiquette and Shaking Hands I often receive queries about people using the article in dealing with Muslim newcomers, immigrants, stuff like that.

http://www.rukhsanakhan.com/articles/shakinghands.html

This is the response I wrote her:

Sorry to hear about your negative experience with that Muslim woman and her husband.

[She had been fingering some fabric in a charity shop and had tried to turn to the Muslim lady next to her to remark on how pretty it was and had seen her husband nearby glaring at her.]

I have no idea why he responded the way he did. Maybe he was just scared and being protective.

When people have been hurt a lot, they tend to expect it. They can be very prickly and defensive. So maybe he expected there would be an altercation or something.

I have no idea. I wasn’t there. I’m only speculating.

Don’t assume that he was being controlling. That may be you projecting your own experiences of controlling men, on him. It isn’t actually possible for him to control you in any way. As a white woman you have way more power and privilege than he does. But that might not be how  you experienced it.

We have no idea of what they’ve been through. Maybe he had good reason to be afraid. Whatever the case, it’s important to rise above.

I know personally that when I travel and interact with people I don’t know, in a strange environment, I make extra effort to speak a lot and be friendly, but that’s just me. And I’m fortunate because I have a very Canadian accent. I’ve seen people visibly relax when they hear it coming out of my mouth.

I’m also fortunate because with time I’ve come to terms with my differences and I’m more comfortable in my own skin and that comes across too.

But perhaps other people are not as confident.

In answer to your question, yes, it is correct for you to speak in passing to any female you encounter in passing in a shop. No worries. Nothing wrong with it. Touching her on the arm is not a huge faux pas either but some people are a little sensitive to that, so it might be better not to.

One thing I learned when I was touring India, is that different cultures have different ways of handling casual encounters.

Western societies, including Australia, tend to be kind of ‘bold’ if you’ll excuse me. (It’s okay with me. I’m used to it and rather like this boldness and directness!) But other cultures find that boldness kind of threatening and aggressive.

I was in a shop in Agra, near the Taj Mahal, buying some souvenirs for my grandchildren. Like you I was fingering some fabric and haggling with the shopkeeper, but I didn’t look at him directly. Many Muslim societies don’t look one another directly in the eye. They think it’s kind of aggressive. Me, I was just examining the material and talking about how much I wanted to pay for it. At the end of the negotiation, the shopkeeper handed me a small glass of tea and asked which part of India I came from.

I was shocked! My Hindi is not very good. I’d assumed he’d know I was from the west and jack up the prices accordingly. Since I’d gotten the price I wanted I told him honestly that I was from ‘outside’. He was surprised and I realized it was because of my mannerisms of not looking directly at him.

Spoke to another Indian who goes back often and they can always tell she’s from outside. And yup, she looks them right in the eye!

So there’s that.

Also remember that people who’ve been colonized will look at white skin as ‘authoritative’. It’s weird, I know, but it’s there. Who knows what sort of dealings they’ve had with other white people that made them so scared of you.

Perhaps what you should have done is not look her in the eye and not look her husband in the eye. But honestly, there’s no harm done, and in the end you don’t owe anyone anything but civility, which you obviously displayed.

Coming from different cultures we will often rub up against each other the wrong way. It’s a good idea to develop a really thick skin and not take anything too personally.

But last night, when I was thinking more about it, I thought wait a minute. I think as we become more and more open to each others’ cultures, we just have to account for the fact that we will meet rude people.

And that is a right that people of color have. That is, they have the right to be jerks.

It’s kind of like that twitter conversation that was out there telling women to smile. Yeah, but what if women don’t feel like smiling??? And then there was that hashtag trending about women smiling.

If the guy glared at her, so what?

It’s not like he did anything physical. And maybe he and his wife, just weren’t in the mood to speak to her. Or maybe they were tired, or whatever.

Nobody owes anyone any sort of cheery disposition. We have no idea what other people have been through.

And basically we need to not take anything personally.

It sure is nice when people are friendly, but if they’re not, shrug it off, and go on your way.

I know, easier said than done at times. But still…

I have a personal motto of trying not to take things personally. It helps keep me humble.

I often tell myself, “Everything isn’t always about you. Get over yourself.”

 

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Friends…

Last night I was shocked to hear about the attack at the masjid in Quebec city.

Apparently two gunmen went into a masjid during Isha prayers (around 8 pm) and opened fire using automatic weapons.

So far six people have died. Others are still in critical condition.

And this happened after a weekend of protests at airports all over America because Trump banned Muslims from the country and many were stuck in limbo or being deported.

It’s chaos right now.

This morning an old friend emailed me.

He’s a singer and songwriter and he’s worked on programs that promote peace and tolerance in schools for decades!

I worked with him probably about fifteen years ago. There were the three of us, him and a playwright and me, an author, and we were trying to create a play that schools could put on during the winter holiday season as an alternative to the standard Christmas pageant that would be inclusive of all faiths and cultures.

We worked for weeks at a very progressive school downtown!

I must say I learned so very much from both of them.

We ended up putting on a play, but in the end the project itself kind of fizzled. I explained to them that there’s nothing seasonal about Muslim holidays. They really do travel throughout the year and aren’t associated with winter at all.

But…out intentions were good!

Here were two white men, you could say the epitome of white privilege, working as hard as you possibly can, to better society and make a difference among the next generation of young people.

They were sensitive. They were caring. And they accepted me as one of them, completely and without prejudice. And it was the first time in my life that had ever happened.

It would not be the last.

Come to think of it, I’ve almost accepted it as ‘normal’ to be accepted by white men or anyone really. And I wonder if these two friends of mine aren’t the reason for it.

The fact that one was from a Christian background and the other a Jewish background and me a Muslim was seen as a strength, not a liability.

And this morning my Jewish friend reached out to me in solidarity because he was thinking of me.

It brings tears to my eyes just thinking of it!

The compassion. The sweet understanding!

I told him that I think God sent them to teach me, early on in my career, so I’d always know that I’m not alone. That there are good, like-minded people, of different races and faiths, out there, that I can work with, that I can ally myself with, in order to work towards the common goal of uplifting the next generation.

Working with children is the most important work you can possibly do!

I believe that now more than ever!

It’s why such a massacre in a house of worship doesn’t destroy me.

Because of their friendships, I can pick myself up, dust myself off, dry my tears and get back to the good work I’m trying to do.

God help the victims of the terrorists in Quebec, and God help all those stranded and affected by Trump’s ban.

Ameen.

 

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