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From the Archives: Keeping Mind of Palestine in Canada

As an archive, the Muslims in Canada Archives (MiCA) preserves forgotten histories of Muslims in Canada. While not all Palestinians are Muslim, Palestine has a continuous presence in the minds of many Muslims in Canada. Over the past 2 weeks, MiCA’s archivists have combed through the collection and found records that document the various ways in which the topic of Palestine – its people, place, and land – are related to, felt with, and advocated for across the country.

**Version française à venir**

We turn to the bulletins, conference programs, newspapers and policy reports in our collection to highlight these underrepresented stories. How have Muslims in Canada advocated for Palestine and Palestinians? What actions have new migrant communities in Canada undertaken when war breaks out abroad? Can archival records inspire people to envision more just and liberated futures? Through the emotional range that the documents showcase– from grief to hope – we invite you to consider the value of the archives in contextualizing this transnational relationship for Muslim Canadians.

Left: The Muslim Tribune, June 1998. Courtesy of Naseer (Irfan) Syed fonds. Centre: The Muslim Tribune, June 2000. Courtesy of Naseer (Irfan) Syed fonds. Right: Islam Canada, Volume 7, No. 4, February 1979. Courtesy of Ahmet Fuad Sahin fonds.

Crescent International, February 16-28, 1982. Courtesy of Ahmet Fuad Sahin fonds.

Through articles and images, Muslim Canadian publications, such as Crescent International, The Muslim Tribune and Islam Canada, express concerns about “occupation”,“forced displacement”, and “ethnic cleansing”.They also bring attention to the global military industrial complex’s economic stakes in Israel’s defense capacities. The February 1982 issue of Crescent International, highlights the market competition between Northrop, McDonnell Douglas, and General Dynamics to secure contracts for Israel’s military.

The Muslim Voice, March 1995. Courtesy of Naseer (Irfan) Syed fonds.

At the University of Toronto, the Muslims Student Association’s newsletter, The Muslim Voice, invoked the term “apartheid” in 1995 to characterize the living and working conditions of Palestinians. The FAQ-style articles offered students the tools to advocate against colonial and imperial violence from Palestine to Iraq and beyond.

The Muslim Voice, March 1998. Courtesy of Naseer (Irfan) Syed fonds.

Other stories point to the multifaith and multiethnic nature of solidarity and advocacy work. In Spring 2002, Imprint, a Toronto-based multiethnic newspaper published the stories of Muslim community organizations condemning antisemitic acts of violence. In the same issue, Sarah Shields’ op-ed traced the lessons passed down from her father, a rabbi whose life's work was dedicated to equity and social care. Invoking Jewish teachings on justice, Shields names the plight of Palestinians as one of the injustices she was raised to stand against.

Left: Imprint, May 16, 2002. Courtesy of Naseer (Irfan) Syed fonds. Right: Imprint, May 16, 2002. Courtesy of Naseer (Irfan) Syed fonds.

Imprint, May 16, 2002. Courtesy of Naseer (Irfan) Syed fonds.

MiCA’s records also offer a window into the activism that communities in Canada undertook to combat violence and promote change. In 2008, the Canadian Arab Federation (CAF) hosted “Shattering the Wall: Mobilization through Civic Participation”, a conference commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe) – the Arabic term many use to describe the mass displacement of Palestinians.

Canadian Arab Federation, 2008. Courtesy of Naseer (Irfan) Syed fonds.

When read alongside other MiCA records on war in Afghanistan and Darfur, and humanitarian aid in Gaza, these pamphlets, policy briefs and newsletters underscore the efforts of individuals and communities invested in justice and peace. As the archival records show, Muslims in Canada have long been keeping mind of Palestine, socially and politically, while offering space to reconsider dominant narratives and document transnational relationships.

Left: Canadian Arab Federation, 2008. Courtesy of Naseer (Irfan) Syed fonds. Right: Canadian Arab Federation. Naseer (Irfan) Syed fonds.

ISNA Canada Newsletter, 2009. Courtesy of Katherine Bullock fonts.


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