Azmina Kassam explores issues of identity in her personal essay in ‘The Muslimah Who Fell to Earth’
By Clare Hennig, CBC Posted: Sep 18, 2017
A group of Canadian Muslim women have come together to create an anthology of first-hand stories exploring the diversity, and intersection, of the Islamic faith and Canadian nationality.
The contributors say that too often, Muslim women are spoken for by others and their own voices are muffled. The new book The Muslimah Who Fell to Earth is an attempt to change that by telling the stories and experiences of 21 women.
Vancouver’s Azmina Kassam is one of those “Muslimah” contributors — which is the feminine word for Muslim — and she said that writing down her story was as much a chance to share her experiences as it was to explore her own identity.
“When I was approached, I thought ‘What a wonderful opportunity to share with other women my story,'” Kassam told CBC’s host of North By Northwest Sheryl MacKay. “The story for me was also about going into ‘What is my identity? What is it to be Canadian?'”
Kassam is Ismaili, a branch of Shia Islam, and grew up in Kenya. She moved to Canada in the 1980s and says that living in Vancouver, and being exposed to so many different people and ideas, stretched her identity in ways she hadn’t imagined.
It’s something she explores in her personal essay.
“As a Muslim, as a Canadian, as a woman — my identity is fluid still and it gets larger with my interactions,” Kassam said.
Some of the most influential interactions she had, she said, came from studying Kundalini yoga, attending Simon Fraser University and dating a Canadian Christian.
“If I had stayed in Kenya and married an Ismaili man I would have had, maybe, a more stable life but not an expanded life,” she said.
Being open to life-changing influences as an immigrant in a new country is important, Kassam said, but so is not forgetting your roots.
“I felt that I had to be rooted in my own identity to have confidence navigating in a life [here],” she said.
Kassam and fellow contributor to the book Meharoona Ghani will be participating in a reading and signing of The Muslimah Who Fell to Earth as part of the Word Vancouver festival on Thursday, Sept. 21 at Banyen Books.
With files from North By Northwest.