Channel: Boonaa Mohammed
Series: Boonaa Mohammed - What the Fiqh
w_ Habeeb Alli
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Bismillah Alhamdulillah wa salatu salam ala rasulillah Salam alaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh. Welcome back to this very interesting podcast. You know, I'm trying to speak to an array of different people, personalities, people who are involved and influenced by the Muslim community. I spoke about some, you know, we spoke to Muslim artists. So far we've spoken to people who are involved in the art scene. And I know you're actually an artist as well. So you kind of are a nice segue into part of today's discussion. And of course, I have with me brother, Habib Ali. And he actually is is a chaplain in a prison here in Ontario. Okay. And he's also a poet as well, and a
published author as well. So I thought we could talk about a few things. One is, first of all, your involvement in prison, not to say you've been to prison or anything I'm saying, going so often.
So first of all, talk to me about how you got involved in this chaplaincy role and what exactly a Muslim chaplain does in prison. Right. So thank you very much buena, Mohamad, it's always awesome to be in your presence. And it's quite an honor to be invited to share my experience as a Muslim chaplain in the federal prison system here, correction services Canada, in the region of ontario. 10 years ago, I got roped into this. No, lo and behold, I'd never thought I would take it up. Because coming. Most times, people like ourselves coming from an immigrant background, and soon after 911 and the scenario basically is one of fear and phobia. So no one wants to go and work in a prison.
Yeah. Scared, we might stay there. They might say, all right, your shifts over you can sleep the night. And you know, exactly. That was my feeling after I got clearance. And I was escorted for a better word, by Yasin Dwyer, who happened to be the senior Muslim chaplain in those days. I thought that when I heard the door, go, click, I said, that's it. I'm not leaving. And so when I left, it was a relief. And that brought me back over and over. Basically, because of my studies abroad, I studied Islam, officially, I mean, you know, Islamic University in Durban in India. Mashallah. So I have a master's in Islamic Studies. So when I came to Canada, 15 years ago, then different jobs,
there was opportunity for a second Muslim champion in Ontario. And I was asked to apply when I was approved, I decided I wouldn't want to do that, really. So for one month, those who were involved in interviewing and in the job itself, both Muslims and Christian chaplains, they were calling me and I was like, I'm not sure what to do. They're trying to bring you back in maybe back in. Okay, so I give credit to Allah. Hi, Patel, Hamad Swami Mohammed streamium Patel, and great Christian chaplain in Ontario, who has moved on to the modern times.
How can I forget his name? Can't be that great.
But yeah, I used to come to me. So we have worked over the years. And
as it is the difference between being an Imam and a chaplain, I mean, there are many differences, but one I could say for sure, is that an Imam is always seen as that you know, unapproachable, full of knowledge full of judgment full of ready to get you a diffic. Right. But a chaplain, as you can well realize is one who facilitates the journey of those who are going through what they're going through after incarceration. So less of any of those, you know, judgment, more approachable, more listening, more compassion, more just facilitated whatever is required, rather than you suggesting right many times is what the what the brothers and sisters, you know, in the journey is asking and
hoping to, to be led. So you're really at the service of these people in service of these people. Wow. And you know, that's ironic, because that really, what is what any man should be? Yes, right, Ernie, ma'am, is there to leave the people, but also to serve the people in their religious, you know, requirements, whether it be to learn about certain topics or to help them to problems they're going through. So, so tell me more about now you've got the job, you agreed to finally say, Okay, I'll come to prison voluntarily. Okay. What was the experience like first coming there? How did you get adjusted to it? Yeah, it was pretty much every day it seemed to be necessary, needing to adjust
because every day is a new situation. But by and large, the bureaucracy or the,
the protocol of operating in a prison system, as you realize is about security or 100%. So it's all first and foremost, your security, your safety, safety of the administration.
Have the staff, safety visitors. So everything that you do security Trumps that. And with that in mind, that's you happen to fall into learning curve, but all trading essentials is provided. So as an example, if you go to a mosque, you know, you have leisure, have all the hours to go and sit and talk and come and go, but you must in the present, you only have limited time, because there's so much happening in between the daytime and you're there, right? So you can only see inmates at a certain point of time appointed place, etc, etc. So that's the challenge that we work with every day, despite of course,
I must say that, why is Canada seen as a paragon of chaplaincy? I've attended a few international chaplains conferences and spoken or you know, or participated in symposium etc. Canada seen as the Paragon a number one when it comes to affecting the lives of those incarcerated to chaplaincy, because simply the Charter of Rights of freedom recognizes that each and every inmate has to have a religious accommodation. Right a reasonable accommodation, of course, okay, within department is of security etc. which was fought in the Quebec remember the Quebec referendum again for them. So all those things put together is what really we are working with everyday. So now, you've asked me to
come and visit. Yeah, you know, the brothers who are there and you work in an all male? prison? Yes. Right. So you've asked me to come in. And the one time I was going to come, yes, there was a big snowstorm. Yes. And it was really difficult to kind of leave the house. And then there were opportunities afterwards. And I told you this, and I'm just saying it now. So people know that I'm actually very nervous. Yes. To go inside. And I have visited prisons before. Yeah, voluntarily. Okay. And I've just, you know, dense performances and stuff, but to visit Muslim inmates. Yeah. Is I feel like they're almost forgotten about community. Oh, absolutely. There are people that almost we
pretend that they don't exist. Exactly. But what's your experience been with them? Yeah, so I mean, I can give you stories after stories. But that's it. Let's grab one case study. Right. Okay. For loneliness and not having support from family and friends and community. So I have a guy that I see is a white Canadian converted.
practicing Islam, right. He has come from foster home from foster home from prison to prison to prison gang life. Right. So who can you call nobody?
Is there a mom? Is it a dad is a girlfriend is a brother, a sister? Why nobody? You see, is there any man? Of course not. Because he has never had the opportunity of being did he convert while and while he's in prison converted? Okay, so when a person that receives a visitor, right in the form of a chaplain or a volunteer, or from the community, we also have people that come and do like Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, as volunteers etc. Christians come, Muslims come, that's their contact. Wow, that's the family that's their friend that is an opportunity for them to have a human conduct outside of the talk, and to listen and to share, you know, and secondly, we just
celebrate eat. So as part of accommodation, we celebrate each so they get an option to fast and Ramadan celebrate aid.
So Yasin Dwyer just joined us after a long time. Is he back now? He No, he just gave us a visitor to visit Okay, as a visiting chaplain visiting chaplain okay. And you could see again because of his experience with some of the men in the past, who remembered him, you know, the love the hug the the Salaam, the joy just sitting down and sharing their stories and, and him listening. So you could see again, that's a unforgotten. I think we want the lowest rung rungs on the ladder when it comes to our social strata, or, you know, the homeless and people who are, you know, ostracized. LGBT may be ostracized for a long time in Canada, but the affordable way to be recognized and you have a number
The first edition is still struggling with that. Most of the Soviet with the blind half three half not Yeah, exactly. And blacks, right. In our community still, you know, facing discrimination. Yeah. But think about who talks about prisoners, right. He talks about enemy to fight for inmates rights, right. Recently this president government here, they've stripped
the legal aid.
Yeah, that was going that so lawyers could have helped those who can afford.
So by and large, I have been doing for the last seven years a gala called one of Gala. So this is a unique gala that recognizes the successful reintegration of inmates into
To the community across Canada, and we invite Muslims, Jews, Christians, atheists, anyone, and everyone in Canada to participate in this Gala. We recognize a few inmates every year as well as leaders. Okay, so who then Elijah, Muhammad Salah, your ham, ham, and Laura asked her soul and give her the highest peace in heaven. She last year receive the wall of gala for the simple reason that as a single mother, she put everything aside and worked in the Somali community, in the black community and in the wider community on behalf of uture risk, right, and she was passionate about taking a visitor to the present to see some of the youth she actually went, but she didn't get an
opportunity to she was talking to me about it. And and then she migrated. And so for those of you don't know, sister Holden is a Somali Canadian journalist who recently passed away unfortunately in mail Have mercy on her soul. huge asset to the community that unfortunately was lost. She was killed in a suppose a terrorist attack at a hotel in Somalia. Yeah. And so she was a recipient of one of the rewards, awards for service. So but give me insight now into the thick of being a prisoner. Yeah. Okay. Because I'm sure I'm assuming there's certain things that might be more difficult. You talked about Milan. Yeah, for example, how exactly does someone vast in prison? Yeah. So that's
First thing is that we follow the calendar. We follow the timetable calendar, right. And it's a process question services Canada has had maybe for over 30 years, a panel of interfaith leaders represents each religious denomination, okay. And they are seen as like, let's say the elders are on the board. So certain issues like Ramadan, beginning and ending, and they were the one who will send to the main chaplain. So right now, we have Roshi Taylor and Kingston who is the regional champion in Ontario, so each province has a regional champion. And in Ottawa, we have the main chaplain for the entire country. Okay, so he for example, say you know, Ramadan begins next time, it is next time
and then we take that visit, is there any disagreement or some people who follow lighting and none of that because if you only do that, then we will never have a Ramadan prison. We wouldn't have an eating prison you do bureaucracy with officials, you're dealing with preparation, eating, just like out here, you know, people have to get time off they need the bosses do so the Muslims in prison are united young. Oh, damn, and all right, but one thing we are united, you know, man, I think we should be following you guys. I think there's some there to learn about. Yeah. And I take an I take that as a cyber scholar, you know, they have differences of opinion. But there's a verse of the Quran that
God Almighty uses when he talks about the the timing of the calendar that he has calculated the movement of the stars and the moon. So the word that using the Aries factor, you know, taqdeer and that is what is the reference for using the calendar. So we as that's the effect that's our fixed so that we can have some uniformity in beginning and ending of Ramadan. For us to prepare for eat. It takes months. Of course, all I can out here. I'm cooking biryani tomorrow, tonight, because tomorrow is eat. So it takes time even providing meals for the soldier in the morning. And are they given accommodations to say you can wake up earlier than perhaps perhaps breakfast is normally served?
Yes. So as an example, I have to make sure that I set out notices and have permissions and and everything discussed at the meeting so and provide your timetable like it's a timetable, well if our timetable and provide like extra time in the morning extra time in the evening. Okay, so we prepare that and then so the guards know, okay, X amount of inmates in this block, for example, will be getting up at 3am in the morning. Wow. And they should try and do your best to accommodate them maybe to heat their food or warm the water to make tea. Okay? And but in the day before is when they're provided the packages, so horror, like cereal or bread or whatever, a coffee so that they
can prepare that. Okay, and then how does it fall to work so it starts similarly, different prisons have different situations. But by and large, if you're preparing your own food, then you have the opportunity of sitting with others and breaking the fast in the chapel.
So we don't have a mosque, we have a chapel which is quite accommodating for all the faiths including the Muslim faith. So our Jamaat our prayers are done in the air. If you're not preparing your own food and you depend upon the kitchen to prepare your food, so they put us they prepare your food. What
I was prepared by the Muslim cooks as an example how our food is packaged and sent early in the day okay and you keep that there. When the time is right then you either warm it up if you if you have access to a microwave or if there's a setting prayers that we have a room in some ways we Primark grub so they come together and Primark given the eat together any telawi any of the Indigo? No, we don't because they have get locked up at a certain hour right? So with these summer months Oh, Isha Magoo has gotten very close already. Yeah. Let's say for example, they have to get in back at 10 o'clock. So mangroves are cutting is very close. On the other hand, maybe in winter, they will have
Okay, Nisha, and Tara. But I have an interesting story I want to share with Sure, go ahead. So I was one of the prisoners in Ramadan. And this gentleman approached me.
I went to break my first day or so was there after Maghrib. And he said, I have a story to share with you. So what is it? He said, I've been charged, and I have a very long sentence. And I've utilized my time and memories in the Quran, Allahu Akbar. And I wanted in Ramadan to recite it in taraweeh. And have someone to listen to me as you know, the normal practice outside of course, one person besides another person listens. This half is in the summer, the Korean assignment, but I don't have anyone that could listen to me and correct me. So So what do you do? He said, and I selected the brother next door to myself, give him a copy of the Quran. And he could have read the
Quran in Arabic from the pages. So once I read taraweeh in myself, he was watching the Quran and following and corrected me if need be. Allah Subhana Allah. So what I did for him is that recently, at the eat celebration, we had I called the Imam who's a half of the Quran. And I said to him, you can listen to him selectively give him an ijazah as a half of the Quran, which you know, is not a tradition is a Sunnah that is over from one half is to another half.
So did he end up getting any jazz? Oh, yeah, so after Hajj, hopefully the man was planning to come back and offer him the selective listening and offer him to each other. That's amazing. So now, I don't know if we're romanticizing prisoners or prison life, maybe in this setting. But can you give me an insight into you know, who is the typical Muslim prisoner? What are they there for? What is their background? Maybe you can give us some insight into who these people are? Because again, they're unknown to many of us. What would you say is if you could stereotype or maybe draw some examples as to who they are? Yeah, that's why I usually avoid talking about the crimes that have
been committed. Because first and foremost, I hardly know the reasons why they are gay, because I never asked unless, by the way, somebody shares a story or you read about it. So we go in every day with a blank slate to listen and help. So I hardly know the reasons. Of course, the plethora of crimes that are happening on the streets is the same plethora of crimes. Muslims are not exempted from the plethora and spectrum of crimes, right, for, you know, for all the Hindus and all the lesser, they're involved in the differences that
for some prisoners, whether Muslim or not, is that it's a revolving door that will come back again and again and again. But majority of times I've seen the power and impact of chaplaincy upon the lives of the men and women I've served in the women prisoners often occurs is that they are affected spiritually and they wouldn't come back. Right. So if more resources were provided more helpers provided more support. As you know, we've been challenged with chaplaincy during the Harper time. And we wanted to cut out minority chaplains, right. And so thank goodness, we still have chaplaincies. But with this present government, it has remained a status quo. It hasn't been better
nor worse, the service is still there. But much could be done to improve with resources so that we have champions who are more encouraged. Sometimes you start this journey, and you didn't expect for it to be a lifelong career. Yeah. But with everything else in life, you end up that's what you end up doing. Yeah. As much as you wish maybe you could have gone back to school, do something else with your education. So there's just a huge gap when it comes to finding chaplains who have been supported and qualified. You'll be amazed the kind of kinds of applications you have now for chaplains compared to those who in the past year, so I mean, well, here's the thing. Why am I why I
asked that question is because when I spoke to you outside, I saw that you were speaking with a brother. Yes. And you mentioned he had mentioned he had volunteered the information that he had actually known you while he was inside. Yeah. And to me it was a bit shocking because he didn't look like
Like someone I would have assumed Yeah, maybe would have been in that situation, right? He just looked like a very regular brother very calm, very relaxed very Mashallah well put together, but to hear that he was actually in prison. And, you know, was in that circumstance. Yeah. That might have shocked many people to know that it shocked me and I I've known people that have gone to prison. So maybe give me some insight into not necessarily the crimes but the personalities of these people. How are they? Are they you know, people that are high strung? Are they people that are, you know, you said, you mentioned the revolving door these career criminals are these people, you know, what
can you say about them? Yeah, the thing is,
there's with a criminal there is no such tattoo or eyebrows or hairstyle. There's no gang, gang mark on the forehead, right? It's not like no suddenly you have three eyes instead of two. Right? You have dreadlocks instead of nicely call me here. Because dreadlocks does not define you, you know, tattoos do not define you. Your color does not define your clothing does not define you wear a hijab less or more full doesn't define you. So we see people from all backgrounds, you can see no a practicing Muslim, but he is innocent the end up in prison, and we've had 11% of people in prison are innocent, basically, or people who have actually done heinous crimes or intended heinous crimes
to Canada, right, and acts of terrorism and other crimes, and you're in prison. But one of the things I want to say is this is that
the the crime that someone has committed, it doesn't D bar them from exercising compassion and humanity. So as an example, I was given this a Jimmy Hoffa on Friday, when I asked him to do Genesis a lot, Sunday for houden. So many times we do like jazz Allah guide for certain personality, because of course, they don't have the opportunity to come out here.
People cried. people pray that people are sad people, prisoners or prisoners. Right. shipmates? What should I call them? inmates? There's a controversy. What?
There's a controversy. What is the correct word that we should use? Okay, sorry, I didn't want to interrupt you. But I wasn't sure if I know that. You're correct. Because inmates is someone who's living in a place but not actually committed. A crime offender may be someone who's committed a crime. Well, not everyone in prison is an offender. Right. And, and so many other guests of the of the, of the krung. Yes. of the, of the state of guests of the state. All different words. prisoners are married. And we're inmates as well. Exactly. There you go. It's just an inmate at home. Just sit around. Exactly. So what's your finger?
Yeah. And then prisoners as well. We know, prisoners have wide, wide definition of a prisoner of war. Exactly. political prisoner. Exactly. Right. So I didn't want to ask you, but you were speaking about holding it in your brain. So I just want to say that there are many, many examples. But to me, this one was striking, because these inmates decried these inmates, they showed compassion. They prayed. They showed the sheer condolences, they showed worry, right assured sadness on behalf of houden and her family. So this is to show you that it doesn't a person make and this is psychologists have spoken about this I've heard psychologists speak about this is that a person can
do a sin or doing a crime, but they still have their humanity will have the compassion, they still have their kindness as an example. Everybody knows that, like many food banks in this country receive
donation drives, you know, from inmates, really, of course, and I didn't know that. And you will know that. And I'm not talking about having a paycheck of $10,000 people having a paycheck of $2 $3 per day. So they are collecting their own food. They could no they collected own food, not necessarily but they collect. One guy actually planted a garden and he donated 5000 pounds of
vegetables to the food bank in Kingston many years back. Wow, there was a article about that, and I actually met him, but I'm talking about Ramadan, Ramadan, we do. Drives so donation drives, so the inmates are donating while they're in prison. Yes, Panama. So one of the sisters in one of the Ramadan. She got her two sisters together. And there's a process that you have to go through for the donation. And it's all to security and everything and the check was made to the food bank and it was made to the Edmonton Food Bank. And this person here is an unclear like, well, like why are you giving it to Edmonton food bank? And she goes, it sounds pretty.
Right Edmonton but she was from England, but it sounded pretty. And that was because I was promoting at that time. You know Ziad Mia was
Doing the gift 30. Okay, every Ramadan, right sacrifice one cup of coffee. Sure and give something back to the community. So he has done amazing across the country. So on that campaigns, she had the option of sending it to one food banks. And will talk to me about the women's prisons now because this is sounds very interesting. So there are obviously prisons here are segregated. So you have male prison, female prison. I don't have to go into specifics. But what is the population size? Like? Are we talking about a lot of sisters who are actually in prison? Or is it a very small group? Like what would be like normatively, not numbers, but a relatively small group, but the statistics
in Ontario and even across Canada is about 6%. of the inmate population are Muslims. Okay. And that varies from place to place. Sure.
So, the the sisters, they are remarkable because they come with a different background right with the issues of children separation, and separation from family, I see is even harder upon them than the men. Okay, so I have journey with some of the sisters, I have some amazing stories. We've actually shared this. So one sister, she would come to me when I when I was visiting 10 years ago. And she would say, Habib, I don't want to pray. I don't want to fast. Don't give me the Quran or give me the hijab. I don't want to hear nothing about Islam, but I'm gonna come, huh. So she would come. Okay. All right. So we will have sessions and talk and then one Ramadan. She comes to me soon
after that, and she goes heavy. Where's that he job? Where's that? Correct? Where's that? Don't you bring it with you? And you? Exactly right. So So what's wrong? What happened? So she sat down, she shared her story. And this is important, because for many of us in our community, mental health is no been spoken about mental health. Yeah, but trauma, PTSD. And so you know, these are things that we have shrugged off for a long time. 100%. And she for her story was her ex husband had kidnapped her son, some like 20 years back, left, Canada told the world that the mother is dead. And he has a right to take his son from Canada, to growing up in a Muslim country, you know what I mean? Okay,
and she was traumatized. And that led her to a number of, you know, social issues and challenges in our life, and up in prison. But what happened is that she met another sister for her community who recognize the name and started chatting with each other recognize that, you know what, this person that I'm talking to here supposed to be dead. But she's alive in prison with me. Why? Because it was her relative, who told the family that my wife is dead, and took the child away from Canada. Long story short, they were able to make contact discovered with a child, you know, grown, young man in college, talk to the Father. This is while she's in prison, why she isn't present. And everything
just closed off that she was about to talk to her son and see her son eventually. So she came to me at that point, right, just before it.
She got a telephone call from her son. And she goes, Habib, I waited 20 years to hear my son say, Mommy, I love you.
So now she got the closure. Yeah, she was ready for Islam.
Prior to that, she blamed Islam for taking away her son. So there's always a context, the context hides people's even even people's incarceration. And you know, sometimes I think, you know, I'll give you an example. In our community in the auto ml community, where I'm from, a lot of times, it's a very hush hush thing. Yeah, someone goes to prison. Most of us will never hear about it. Yeah, I have a close family friend of mine, actually someone who I grew up with who I was very close with. And he actually went to prison. And what we heard was that he went to visit his father in Australia. Yeah. Right. You say, Oh, he went to visit his father in Australia for like, a few years. And you
think, oh, he's Yeah, and this is before social media. Yes. Just just no way to get in touch with him. And then come to find out later on. No, he was in prison the entire time. Right. I know a lot of times families obviously families are integral to inmates, re hashing re
integrating into society. What are some of the challenges you find with families with, you know, whether it be people who are separated from their children, in terms of even having relationships having marriages or what's, how does that play into prison life? Yeah, well, I've heard those stories before. And the thing is, as I said earlier, when you get into prison, the telephone calls keep dropping. Yeah, right. The girlfriend, the boyfriend, the father. You know, the sister, the brother, the friend, the Koi, the homie, right husband, wife, they all
The calls keep dropping even from the husband and wives, even lots of divorce or separation. The only person that picks up the phone eventually, until maybe she leaves this world is the mother
that when you can rely on you could rely on that. Then the grandmother, of course, and the grandmother, right? So the grandmother love is unconditional. Right? Because like mommy's love is unconditional, but Mommy will also get mad at you. So, that that being said, is that taboo? You know, it's, you know, in our community, like most immigrant communities, they still have this thing that what would people say? Is that is that right? It is. So what would it say repetition what would people say? And but correction services candle, you know, they have provided all these services that you could visit, you could spend time, right, you come into the halfway house, for example, in
Toronto, you still reintegrate by going to the mosque into the seat of family? Sure.
Getting back your job. I remember one brother he finally was coming home and from the halfway house so he did his time in prison then in Hatfield, I used to support halfway houses like a trend. I know what halfway, someone's explaining it. So halfway house is like a transitionary. Home for people who have left prison. Yes, but are still like technically being monitored and need to check in with a parole officer. As part of his like, not complete parole. Yeah, like a half parole. It's half roll. Yeah, yeah. So but you get to go to job you get to see family limitedly you're free to the most extent of what you can and cannot do here. So remember taking this guy home. All right, give him a
ride from the halfway house to where he's gonna live. And when he saw the no frills, he goes, Oh, my God, no further still here.
You wanted to close down? Yeah, but you see the, the joy, right? And the surprise and all of that. So and I recently, you know, spoke to him like he has done to me as an example. He has done amazing, went back to work at a bakery, his job, you know, the boss, give him back his job, despite the challenges of taking a bus for three hours, right. And then he opened up his store in the flea market, okay, from one to a second one to a third one. So you have these good stories, you know, people reintegrating but they took it take takes a lot. When you don't have family support, when you have committees to avoid you don't have to manage support everyone that but is also tax that would
operate all in tax, right. And you accepted Islam. And he was coming out and he was always on me like, Habib, can I go to the mosque? What would you see? I have tattoos on my body. What would you see a white you know, they will see you're not Muslim. You're not what you're doing here. Get out of here. Right? Especially those oncosec we have a device, fortunately. So I met him right, a few years after suddenly at a restaurant and he and first question asked me like, how was it? And he goes, Habib, it was amazing. I couldn't believe it. I went to the moss I prayed. And people did not judge me. Well, maybe they didn't say anything. They probably did judge him. Yeah. I mean, the reality is
that most of our massages, unfortunately, operate in this like, pseudo hierarchy. Yeah. Right. Where there are people who maybe they attend quite often. Yeah. And because of that, they feel a sense of authority, like they can dictate to people. Yeah, you know, you can do this, you can do that. Even though they're not part of the budget. They're not part of the board. They're not part of the shooter or anything. My wife actually used to teach at an Islamic school. Yeah. And that's based in the masjid. I won't say the name of it. Yeah. And I remember she she would always come home complaining that the sisters must should like during jamaah. Yeah, there was like these old
Auntie's. Yeah. Who would you know, some women would come in with their kids? Yeah, this is their only time of the week for some spiritual, refreshing kind of lecture or Jamaat clip or whatever. And these women would start yelling at them. No, you can't be in here. Sit over here. If you have kids, you can't. And to the point where these women would just be like, Alright, I'm gonna leave. Yeah, I don't want to be in the machine anymore. I hear a lot of those. Yeah. And it's very unfortunate that these people and my wife took up for the sister. Yeah, and basically told us, like, you know, yeah, you can't do that. Right. But in the Auntie's mind, she's doing a service for the rest of us. Or in
the uncle's mind. These people who are these like pseudo religious police? Yeah, they run those guys in Saudi
with a stick, you know, with a tongue is that yeah, exactly what the tongue right? My fear is that if a person really did come from prison, or come from a bad situation, the machine will probably be the last place to come to fortunately, except a few places, right?
It's that has been the situation.
I can see. For example, if I call upon your mom, Swami Sarika teacher center, he's always supportive, right? Because he's integrated social services, and mental health, etc. As part of the masjid fabric. Right, which more masters could do the same. Yeah. Well, I think there's a big disconnect.
Between massage and social issues, right? A lot of times our massages are set up like, like museums. It's like a or like a retirement home. You know, you have uncles who are just this past work day, past working days, whatever, they can't do anything but pray. They go there. They sit there all day. And they just sit there and judge. I there was a funny there's a machine in Scarborough actually, if I if I, I wish I'd taken a picture of there's a sign outside. It's like 100 things you can't do? Like No, this no talking, no public gathering, no this. No, no. Sleeping after here. And it's a list of No, no, no, no, no. And I'm thinking this is the introduction to Islam, you're giving people like
before they walk into the building, it's all the things you can't do. Right? But I want to tie this back into your work. What can people do? What can we as community members who are outside of the prison atmosphere? What can we do to support brothers and sisters who are either inside prison or who are transitioning back into society and back to our communities? What can we do to help them? The first thing is I do not judge? It could be any one of us innocent or guilty? It could be any one of us inside prison.
And secondly, is that provide resources, we still ask for donations, devicelock comic items to the brothers and sisters. We still need volunteers to visit institutions, you know, the chaplain is doing his part already, but volunteer Christians have so hundreds of volunteers Really? Oh, yes. Now something I want to
talk about quickly. And to add to this.
In my work as a Muslim chaplain, I work within the perimeter of multifaith. So we respect other faiths. we accommodate other faiths if someone is a Judeo
Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, atheist, we can, you know, we can do all kinds
of different sects, right, different schools of thought, regardless, we accommodate that person by providing whatever religious requirements they need.
And secondly, there are certain things we support as well as a secular
forex, I'll give you two examples. One is the there's a bus service from Toronto that is provided free of charge to families who want to visit their loved ones who are incarcerated and cannot afford it.
So that bus service has been going on for a number of years and they cannot afford even to maintain the bus is a father and a daughter who is running as an NGO together
is called feed children. I have posted on social media over and over again feed children. Okay FET children so I've
donated money to them last Ramadan, and
and again this year hoping to support her name is Jessica Ricci walks from Toronto to Ottawa in the summer to raise funds for the bus service. Wow. So the community needs to remember that it's not only what Muslims are the loved ones in prison is about helping the community. Of course, this bus service does not discriminate lacquer white Muslim or not everyone takes this bus. Right. Secondly, there is a sister Alton Jane and Finch Xia Brown, she, for over maybe 10 years has been going to the prison taken.
Yo young black youths from Toronto to perform the arts in the prison, right. So the last for Black History Month, for example, he's performed
both Muslims and Christians what it means to lose a loved one and Jaden Finch. And how do you do the janazah? And do the funeral rites? And how does the mother of the Muslim child mourns? And how does the mother of the Christian child mourns, etc. to bring the reality to the men in the present? So for the for my fundraiser that I had in Ramadan, the interfaith gala fundraiser every year she Muslim? No, she's not Muslim. She's a Christian pastor, young Christian pastor. So we donated money to $500 towards her mom, and she speaks about how to how to Muslim people mourn. Yes. And she bought an Imam as well. So and her story is amazing, because she started off our ministry in the prison by
virtue of selling at a flea market, and the men will leave the prisoner but tell her that, you know, there's not I don't have clothing, I don't have much to go buy with. She would give him a free jeans, and a little Bible, a pocket Bible. Right. That's how she started her ministry. So we have journeyed with so many different people and clears and organizations in a prison. So it's not only about religion, it's not only about Islam. And the other thing I would like to mention is that there is a Canada's unique and offering restorative justice. restorative justice is where, apart from the court and the judicial system and the lawyers and the fighting and the heating that happens in the
All right, there's not much left for forgiveness and for making amends and we compensation and to talk in what actually happened
and how it happened. And in the feelings of those have been heard from both parties. restorative justice actually helps us to bring both parties together and to seek forgiveness, if not forgive at least amends, or at least knowledge of what happened. So they can find closure.
And we as Muslim chaplains have been part of that over the years to facilitate that and to help promote that which we know in our Quranic tradition,
forgiveness, and the DHEA and ping blood money, and finding ways of compensation to each other is an integral part of Toba and repentance course. Right? Have you been a part of any of those? And part of that, so I want to share with you a story with a young man who came to me a few years ago in the chat bill, all happy and excited. He's a white convert Canadian, converted in a prison in Edmonton. And he goes happy what happened is my happy as they said, What happened? He said, Do you know I accepted a stop a few years ago in Edmonton. And every Ramadan, I would pray to Allah to show me that he's forgiven me.
But I never saw it. But today I saw it.
That is the fact of the person who was killed, contacted contacted me through there's a process that happens with restorative justice, to security clearance and everything.
Because you're not supposed to contact your victims, right? So but through this process of returns of justice, the father, who lives in the States, contacted him and said, are willing to talk to you
and visited him in prison, he visited the person who had killed his son, yes. And said to him after listening to his story and exchanging back and forth of to a mediator, all right.
And that if you should leave prison, I was sitting in Tim Hortons and have a coffee with you.
Okay, that's, that's just icing on the cake so that it gets even better. So after a year or two, he tells me again, the chapel it gets even better, that this person actually came to visit me says he is willing to go to his parole hearing, and to vouch for him, that this human being right has changed human being and deserves a chance of parole. I have forgiven what I've gone too crazy to Peter, born for my last son for the last 20 years.
And now, it gets even better.
This gentleman and himself not become like friendly in the sense that he has said that if he comes out of prison, he's willing to move wherever he's living to help assist him in his reintegration.
Now, that's interesting, because I feel like that type of forgiveness is more for the Father. Exactly. It's he needs that he needs to feel like his son's loss was a son's death wasn't a complete loss to his entire life. Exactly. And that's, you know, that that's the important part of forgiveness. But I mean, ultimately, these people who are going through the circumstance of course, a person who commits a crime, you know, even in Islam, we believe there is a form of punishment that that occurs, but we sometimes forget that people can be forgiven. And one of the beauties of our Deen is when we learned that our last panel Dallas Ella hall for he's a local for Allah azza wa jal
is the one who forgives no matter what we do. You know, it always makes me feel good to know that even if the people might not forgive me, we know that our last panels Allah is merciful, he can always forgive us for any crime or sin we've committed. And I'm inspired by this by these stories. Yeah. And I'd love for brothers and sisters to contact you and to find out more about how they can help out in the prison system and we didn't get a chance to speak more about your your poetry as well. But yeah, art somehow in your life also combined. So how can people get in touch with you? How can they find out more about the work you're doing? Well, social media items on social media, heavy
rally and Facebook and Instagram and you have a different spelling of Habib as well as get HIV, HIV, Eb and a double l Li Yeah. And I, I do events, as you know, in city, a lot of events, I work with human concern international as well, we do events. So I have an upcoming event, I will shamelessly plug in
because all my events is between human concern international benefiting and between the workers in the prison, an interfaith work I do in the community that benefits as well. So eat by the lake started four years ago, because as you said earlier, the there are a lot of families, a lot of converts a lot of non Muslims and a lot of people like who come from all kinds of background, Western background, you know,
Canadian background, you know, in your case, you know, from Ethiopia and an African background. We do not always have the same
experiences and culture and traditions that people may come from India Pakistan, for example, Saudi Arabia, right? We have mixed families we have, right we have people who practice Islam with less intensity or more intensity, the way you look at it than others. So by and large, I found when I moved when I moved to the Durham Region that we do have, you know, families inclusively, celebrating eat
non Muslims coming, so I started eat by the lake four years ago, where we've had Jews, Christians and Muslims, Hindus. We've had families together, praying and listen to the football. Together, we've had food and music and entertainment in the op ed, and people of all backgrounds came Kathleen Wynne came in the past as the premier. Selena chavannes, the first Grenadian woman in Parliament came,
we celebrate the 100 and 50th anniversary of Canada and one of those events so, so this year, again, August 11, we're doing that. Just a collaboration of volunteers doing it out in the Ability Center in Whitby, I hope people could come out and check that out. And some of the proceeds will go to help the children that we're helping in Ghana, as well as some of the proceeds go to help us in the work has been in the prison. So check that out. And you have a website anywhere. So it's on Eventbrite is on Facebook. And my, my page basically is one love media. So on that name that we promote, number one, Li ve nano is one on one with o n e o n e Love, love Vidya. Okay, people wanted to wait, I
choose one love. So the story is that one exactly one of one heart. Yeah. So when we were losing the chaplaincy services, was threatened by Harper government, the previous government. I was sitting at home and so distraught, and I was going through YouTube, and there was Bob Marley song, one love playing. And I said, You know what, I'm going to do something in the name of one love. And that is how it is that Muslim should claim. I mean, we, of course, the process of selling was Rahmatullah alameen. Yes, he was a mercy to all mankind, right. Sometimes I think our charitable acts or our social services relate strictly to the Muslim community, we don't often think about helping
communities outside of our own. And in fact, this was part of the mission of the prophet SAW, I saw him he was a mercy to all of mankind. Yeah. So I appreciate the work you're doing. And I'm glad I'm glad you're saying that because
again, we cannot overemphasize the importance of doing interfaith work in this country. In Canada Yeah. Oh, being here or presence being here. Right, our lasting presence be here protected presence being here. I think a lot of it has to do the way Canada's been designed to be multifaith, right, multicultural open, we should take advantage of it. Exact works to our benefit. So But anyways, Zack Monahan and for your your work that you're doing for the community for the unspoken and sometimes forgotten, brothers and sisters in prison, and for coming on our podcast and hopefully, inshallah we can speak to again in the future. Thank you. Maybe when I published my book is coming out my book of
poetry is coming out in the next month. Yes, and I'm gonna see the title of it. What's it called? While lavender, wild lavender. Okay, so that's my cacophony of poems coming out. This is going to be my 26th publication. Wow. So hopefully we get a plug in on that inshallah inshallah people can find you on social media on Facebook on Instagram all that good stuff. Yeah. And I check out one love media as well. Yeah, inshallah Callaghan and for tuning in to this podcast inshallah we'll see you again next time is Aquila hidden as salaam alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh.