On Tuesday, Muslims around the world celebrated Eid Al-Adha, the celebration that commemorates the end of the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage in Mecca. This year, like the last, was marked by alternative arrangements to accommodate the ongoing pandemic and necessary restrictions.
Here in London, Eid prayers were held at several locations, adhering to COVID-19 guidelines, including physical distancing and mask-wearing. For the first time since 2019, however, the Muslim community was able to organize a large outdoor service at the Western University fields and it almost felt normal again.
I could see families arriving in their best outfits, and young children eager to open the candy bags passed out by volunteers. The usual buzz of excitement and elation filled the air as friends stopped to talk between the murmur of invocations carried across the field over the loudspeakers.
Communal joy is embedded in our spiritual practice. We are encouraged by prophetic guidance to meet one another smiling and wish each other a flourishing year. We spend the day on Zoom, WhatsApp and Skype, calling extended family members near and far, asking after their health and well-being. We show gratitude to our Creator by celebrating the blessings entrusted to us, of which there is no shortage.
It goes without saying, but these last few weeks have been quite difficult for Canadian Muslims, especially for those of us in London. As I walked on to the Western fields for the Eid prayer, I reflected that the last time Muslims in London had gathered in such large numbers was in early June to mourn the four lives taken from us in an alleged act of hate. The Afzaal family was again remembered and prayed for by everyone present.
One of the main calls to action after the Islamophobic hate crime in London was for a national summit on Islamophobia, which took place on Thursday. The summit is timely as the news of Islamophobic hate crimes across Canada has persisted.
The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) has released a set of 61 recommendations for all sectors and levels of government to tackle anti-Muslim hate. These include asking for the attorney general’s intervention in Bill-21, the law in Quebec preventing those wearing religious symbols from holding many public service jobs.
It is necessary to note the summit is not considered to be the end, but the means to further commitment to action. The measure of success will be how many of the recommendations are adopted and implemented.
It is not an exaggeration to say Muslims in London are still reeling from the ramifications and impact of the traumatic event of June 6 when the Afzaal family was killed. What I worry about most is a return to normality and a growing desensitization to news of attacks on Muslims. The summit brought out in a public forum what Muslims in Canada have been saying for years while we demand the necessary changes to keep us safe in this country we call home.
While we grapple with the reality of Islamophobia, this Eid presented an opportunity to gather in celebration as a community, reminding us all that we are very much present and thriving. And since we have been kept separate by the circumstances of the pandemic, the energy was reinvigorating and very much needed.
It was a day to exercise our joy as a sacred practice, which is especially true during times of hardship.
Even more so, it demonstrated to ourselves, our children and everyone around us that we are more than the events that cause us pain and, despite it all, we endure.
Selma Tobah has been active in a number of Muslim community organizations in the city.