On March 27, the Trent Muslim Student Association (TMSA) held its Annual Grad Dinner to recognize some Trent students who are graduating this year. The event took place in Champlain College, which was decorated with balloons and ribbons, and hosted a diverse range of attendees that included Muslims, non-Muslims and the Trent community at large.
The event started off with the evening (magrib) prayers which inaugurated the proceedings of the night. For those who may not be familiar with the practice, Islam encourages the remembrance of God at least five times a day. This occurs in the form of a ritual which consists of specific recitation and movements that can provide the one performing the ritual, a sense of renewal to her or his connection to God. In a time when everyone is preoccupied with exams, the evening prayer provided the spiritual element to the night which was well needed to pause from worried thoughts for one moment and to reflect one’s relationship with God. This was also an opportunity for those seated on the side to listen to the beautiful recitations in Arabic while they silently observed the congregation before the event proceeded.
Then, there were a few speeches made by the hosts of TMSA dinner, including Bakhtawar Riaz and Noor Zanzoul, both of whom felt at home before the microphone. Moreover, the hosts had their priorities set right. Before handing out the prizes, the hosts invited the hungry guests (I know I was) to queue for the food. The selection of food was from an Afghan restaurant based in Toronto. I especially enjoyed the diversity in food options which included rice dishes, chicken, kebabs and naan bread.
After dinner, the hosts congratulated the graduating class of 2015 and asked the chief guests to take the stage and hand out the gifts that the TMSA volunteers had prepared. The two Chief Guests were Maryam Monsef, former Peterborough mayoral candidate and ex-executive member of the TMSA, and Professor Saud Chaudhry from the Economics department. Names of the graduates were called out and each student was recognized for their achievements in undergrad studies as they posed in front of the camera with the chief guests (as observed in the collages attached).
The speeches of the night included one by Noor Zanzoul and Maryam Monsef. Noor in his speech, mentioned something about the importance of love, and encouraged grads to have a positive outlook to their future and to “always make happiness a priority”.
Maryam Monsef recalled her time as former president of the TMSA and shared some of the challenges she faced in bringing together the Muslim community on campus. In her refreshingly honest speech, Monsef encouraged students to be supportive of each other and to reserve judgment toward people who may look different or make life choices different from one’s own. In short, Monsef highlighted the importance of engagement in the vibrant and diverse Muslim community at Trent.
Finally, the names of TMSA’s executive team for next year (2015-2016) were revealed which are listed as follows. Muhammad Arif Khan was elected the President, Feras Althuniyan as Vice President, Maimona Altaf as Director of Events, Saarah Syed as Director of Publicity, and Aisha Omar as Director of Finance.
Overall, the atmosphere of the Grad Dinner was festive and one of smiles and celebration. But something that I took away from the night was that the importance of recognizing achievements of Muslim students who are part of the diverse Trent community. As I sat through the event, I was reminded of a reading from one of my IDST classes by Charles Taylor – a renowned Canadian philosopher and academic – that highlights the importance of recognition in a contemporary, hybrid society such as that of Canada. Taylor argues that recognition has links to one’s identity and of one’s understanding of who they are; and that “our identity is partly shaped by recognition or its absence, often by misrecognition of others” (Taylor, 1992, 25).
Whether it is misrecognition or nonrecognition, Taylor argues that these can have harmful impacts on our wellbeing and prevent us from understanding others who may come from different backgrounds. That is why I think that events like TMSA’s Grad Dinner are important – not only because they provide an opportunity for students to recognize graduates for their personal achievements at their time at Trent, but also to engage students from diverse backgrounds (and beliefs and interests) to get to know each other a little better. Although I imagine that this engagement would require some humility on part of both parties.
I would like to extend my thanks to the TMSA for hosting a spectacular event, and congratulate all the grads of 2015 for their achievements. ¡Buen viaje!