Ryerson’s first-ever Muslim faculty group held their inaugural event on campus last week.
The Muslim Faculty and Staff Community Network was formed by Sakeena Mihar and Sarah Bukhari. They said they wanted to support and bring together fellow Muslim members of Ryerson’s faculty and staff.
“Being a Muslim is a challenge,” said Mihar, who works as a web content strategist at Ryerson.
The group’s first event was an informal social gathering to celebrate Eid. It took place last Wednesday at Sally Horsfall Eaton Centre and was open to all faculty and staff members.
“It’s basically just an initial kick-off to spread the word about the community network,” Mihar said. “We were trying to find a time that worked for everyone and decided to plan on celebrating Eid al-Adha, since it’s a time traditionally set for family and friends.”
The event was held over a week after the Islamic holiday ended.
The idea for a community network supporting Muslim staff at Ryerson first came about in January after the the terrorist attack in Quebec.
“The shootings were a big shock to us,” Mihar said.
In response, a series of gatherings were organized to lend support to grieving Muslim faculty and give them a space to “unpack.”
It was during these gatherings that Mihar came up with the idea to have a group that brought together faculty and staff members that identify as Muslim.
“It does send a message to our faculty that our colleagues are trying to support us and be there for us,” said Amina Jamal, a sociology associate professor and fellow member of the community network.
While there have been efforts by the Ryerson administration to support Muslim faculty, including hosting the university’s first-ever Eid last year, no group has been created for them until now.
“It’s a place of work,” Mihar said. “We do have a department for equity, diversity and inclusivity (EDI), which is great and definitely supportive, but this community network is something created by employees for employees.”
Mihar also added, “This is a group that’s open to anyone who self-identifies as Muslim, we’re trying to keep it as inclusive as possible with no barriers.”
Sarah Bukhari, who works in the Faculty of Community Services, said the idea was completely supported by the Ryerson administration.
“When we broached the idea, we got so much support from EDI and human resources. After that, it was just a matter of trying to find a time to plan this event.”
Safia Yousuf, another Ryerson faculty member, voiced how happy she was to find a group where she truly belonged.
“I’ve found groups and associations supporting Muslim students but where are the groups supporting Muslim faculty?” she said.
Mihar called the event a success, especially as it was attended by both Muslims and non-Muslims.
“All the attendees wanted a community network like this,” Mihar said. “They were waiting for an event like this to happen, it showed them and us that there is a community to connect.”
While the group does focus on Muslim faculty members, it is inclusive and open to allies coming from all faiths and beliefs.
“What was great was that we saw a lot of non-Muslims come in for the gathering,” Mihar said. “It shows their interest in supporting our initiative.”
Jamal added that the group would also be a great way to gather more information on the kind of barriers that young Muslim students and staff face.
“It’s also good for us to understand the diversity within us and not just the commonality,” she said.