Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Eid a truly happy occasion in Manitoba

Mom pleased school gave son, 6, chance to share it with students

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Kaleem gets a hug from Manitoba Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Christine Melnick for giving her a Qur'an reference book after she proclaimed October Islamic History Month.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Kaleem gets a hug from Manitoba Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Christine Melnick for giving her a Qur'an reference book after she proclaimed October Islamic History Month. Photo Store

It seemed innocuous enough.

With the Muslim festival of Eid approaching, I thought I would ask the principal of my children's school whether a "Happy Eid" banner could be put up. I felt a sudden surge of responsibility to have my boys share this celebration with their classmates.

And yet I wondered: With all the politically correct frenzy surrounding religion in general, would my children's openness to sharing their tradition be treated with hostility?

I was pleasantly surprised to find that not only did the principal welcome the idea, she wanted my six-year-old son to give a speech at his junior school assembly about the significance of Eid.

He was hesitant at first, but it wasn't long before he was dictating his speech to me as I typed away on the laptop. As speech day approached, I was probably more nervous than he was. I know I couldn't have done that when I was six. It's hard enough being brown, let alone verbalizing yet another difference between you and your peers.

After two weeks of practice and help from his home-room teacher, he finally got up in front of all 240 students of his junior school at St John's-Ravenscourt. He did a great job sharing information about Eid, hajj and the significance of our holy site, the Kaabah in Mecca.

He talked about how on Eid he invites his school friends and their families to our house for our annual Eid party. He even enlisted these friends to assist him in his speech by holding up the "Eid mubarak" (Blessed Eid) banners.

I like to think both students and teachers left the assembly knowing at least one new thing about Eid or hajj or about the Muslim students that make up part of the student body.

Coinciding with Eid this month is the launch of Islamic History Month for the first time in Manitoba. The provincial government read the proclamation marking this occasion at the legislature on Oct. 16, the day after Eid.

Islamic History Month Canada celebrates Islamic civilization and the historic contributions of Muslims to science, philosophy, literature, architecture and beyond. Through acknowledging our rich heritage and valuing our contributions, the history month seeks to inspire Canadian Muslims to continue this legacy of enriching the society in which we live. That enrichment can begin with the smallest act of sharing and acceptance exhibited in my son's school. This reminds me of how blessed we are living in a province where children from diverse backgrounds can see that their teachers, friends and even government value them and their traditions. More importantly, that they can join us in celebrating them.

A few months ago, I may have taken this for granted. Yet if we were in Quebec, I probably would have been met with a very different reaction had I requested a "Happy Eid" banner in my child's school.

And the government of Quebec formally proclaiming Islamic History Month? Sadly, for our Canadian Muslim counterparts in Quebec, such an idea seems to be wishful thinking at best.

Had I been living in Quebec as a Muslim woman who observes the hijab, I cannot even imagine trying to explain to my young children why the government thinks Mommy choosing to cover her hair in public is wrong.

How is a young child meant to reconcile that? How will he or she internalize it?

I have lived in Winnipeg for nine years after moving from the U.K. It was not exactly by choice, but as my tradition teaches, everything happens for a reason. And as I bring up my children as bona fide Winnipeggers in this community, I realize that -- apart from the cold winters -- there's nowhere else I would rather be.

Eid Mubarak, everyone.

 

Nadia Kidwai is the 2013-14 Reader-in-Residence for Literacy Partners of Manitoba

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 17, 2013 B3

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