20 years after 9/11: Looking back at the Canadian Muslim Community
Twenty years ago in the weeks following the 9/11 terrorist attack in the U.S., a tabloid style, monthly newspaper catering to the Toronto Muslim community was launched with its inaugural edition released on October 19, 2011.
The early issues of the newspaper captured the sentiments and concerns of Canadian Muslims following 9/11.
The headline of the first edition read, ‘Afghans and Pakistanis in Toronto afraid for loved ones: Canadians concerned for families’ and the article stated:
Toronto’s area Afghan and Pakistani Canadians, already dismayed by comments of those who would liken their religion to terrorism, are watching events unfold in Afghanistan and Pakistan from several perspectives: as Muslims, as Canadian citizens and as former residents of their home countries.
Many are worried about family members back home and continue to have difficulties keeping in touch with them. Tahir Safi, who came to Toronto from the city of Jalalabad, spends hours on the phone trying to reach relatives.
“The Americans say they are only bombing the Taliban,” he said. “But in war, innocent people are killed.”
The editorial of the first edition titled, ‘Time to reflect on our strength in diversity,’ called for greater inclusion of Toronto’s growing, visible and diverse population in public and private institutions:
In spite of this great diversity, it is sometimes difficult for an outsider to notice it in official Toronto. Institutions, governments and the media do not truly reflect our city - especially where it counts - in the upper, decision-making levels of these institutions.
The recent tragedy in the U.S. brought to the fore what this lack of inclusion can mean for visible groups in times of crisis. They are the first targets and although they are as Canadian as anyone else, they are usually cast as the ‘other’ in difficult times. This is how Canadians - of Arab, Muslim, Sikh and Hindu - backgrounds have felt since the September 11th terrorist attacks on the U.S.
The world has come to Toronto and it is time for the city, institutions, governments and the media to take notice and reflect this diversity.
In the weeks and months following 9/11, many prayer gatherings were held across the country. The paper reported on a large event, "Healing the wounds in Toronto," held at the University of Toronto’s Convocation Hall on Sunday, October 14, 2001:
It was an evening of soul searching and introspection for the Muslim community.
The event was organized by a group of Toronto youths and supported by a number of community and national organizations within the Muslim community….
In a statement, the coordinators of the program said, “We need a vision of Islam that is rooted in our reality as Canadian Muslims. We must not feel like foreigners or outsiders in our own country. We must build a Canadian Islamic identity that is deeply rooted in our tradition and the universal principles of our faith. With bombs falling on Afghanistan, it will be difficult to remain focused. Canadian Muslims must work towards peace and social justice and join hands with fellow citizens of conscience to support peace abroad. It is time to think and act local, while maintaining a highly developed sense of global concern.