Description: A documentary film about Muslim seniors and volunteerism
Project Sponsor: Employment and Social Development Canada
Project Partner: Muslim Seniors Circle
Launch Date: January 2015
Serving Others: Memoirs of Muslim Seniors is a documentary focusing on the life histories of Muslim seniors with extraordinary volunteer experiences. Stories of elder Muslim volunteers are not widely known beyond a tight circle of family and friends. Through their narratives, we hope to provide inspiration, guidance, and mentoring for those following in their footsteps while also providing a tribute to early Muslim pioneers in Canada. The Tessellate Institute is proud to partner with Muslim Seniors Circle on this project.
The documentary was screened to several audiences and followed by panel discussions with the four subjects.
Doris is of Maltese background, having moved to Canada at the age of seven. Growing up Catholic, Doris learned the virtues of volunteering and giving back. She studied television and social work at Ryerson Polytechnic.
Doris converted to Islam in 1989, influenced by her constant interaction with Muslim refugees. As a volunteer, she has provided ESL classes for women, helped in youth clubs, and supported programs for women and children to aid their transition into Canadian society. She also helped create the Islamic Social Services and Resources Association (ISSRA), which serves Muslims with social services in family counselling, abuse, and other issues.
Wahida arrived to Canada in 1961, and later studied social work. She taught Toronto’s small immigrant community about Islam by hosting classes in her home. While working for the Islamic Social Services and Resources Association (ISSRA), she became interested in issues of poverty, domestic violence, and marriage counselling.
Wahida served as President of the Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC), an organization that played a pivotal role in challenging the media narrative of Muslims in Canada, post 9/11. She also fought to address a variety of issues facing women through her work at the Hedayat Foundation. Most notably, Wahida was instrumental in having the Canadian government declare October as the official Islamic History Month.
Hanny Hasan is of Syrian-Canadian decent and was born in London, Ontario in 1940. He has been an active volunteer within the Muslim community for more than 50 years. He was among the founding members who established London Muslim Mosque, the first mosque in Ontario.
Hanny’s main work however has been interfaith with St. Michael’s Hospital and Emmanuel College to educate non-Muslims about Islam. Among his proudest achievements was the creation of a Muslim youth camp in the 1970s, at a time when there were very few spaces for young Muslims to engage with their faith and community. Hanny’s volunteer work has received public recognition, and he was awarded the Governor General’s Award, primarily for his interfaith volunteer efforts.
Amjad immigrated to Canada in 1965, and worked at Sunnybrook Hospital for 30 years before retiring. He was among the first generation who established the Dundas Street Mosque, the first mosque in Toronto, and later helped build ISNA Mosque in Mississauga.
Much of Amjad’s volunteer work has been in healthcare, creating programs to educate hospital staff and health care workers on how to provide services to immigrants. He also initiated the ISNA Hospital Visitation Program. Among his many accomplishments was the inclusion of halal meat options for patients in Mississauga hospitals, after years of tireless efforts. Finally, Amjad and his wife volunteer their time to perform the final ablution for deceased Muslims.
The following are other extraordinary Muslim seniors who regrettably were not able to participate in our documentary. However, their important contributions and lifelong service deserve honourable mention.
Ikram Makki was born in British India and immigrated to Canada in 1967. For more than 30 years, he served as a dedicated public servant for the Province of Ontario.
He is the founder of the Muslim Youth Community Centre, which provides Islamic education to children. Makki’s commitment to volunteerism has been acknowledged through multiple awards, including the Queen Elizabeth Jubilee Medal, Town of Pickering Civic Award, and by the Ministry of Citizenship and Culture.
ABDUL HAI PATEL
Abdul Hai Patel arrived to Canada in 1969 from Barbados. He has served as an Imam and community leader for more than 40 years. He is the President of the Ontario Multifaith Council and was formerly the Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
Abdul Hai is the recipient of many awards including the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Award for alleviating poverty—the first Muslim male to be granted the honour.
Khadija immigrated to Canada in 1969 from South Africa, and is a retired school teacher.
For more than 30 years, she held leadership positions with many Muslim organizations, most notably being elected as the first female to the board of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). She currently sits on the board of the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM). She was the founding member of Women for Peace, an interfaith group, and Expressions of Muslim Women, promoting Muslim women in the arts.