- by Anne Finlay-Stewart and Waleed Aslam

As our neighbours celebrate Ramadan, fasting from sun up to sundown, we all have an opportunity for an honest look at our community.

The Owen Sound Hub shared a Facebook post by one of our neighbours, Waleed Aslam.  To his Ramadan message and beautiful picture of his family, I added "This is what our community looks like", and many of you added greetings and smiles. 

One person did not.  They responded "You do you rituals. And if your in Canada. Then don’t change our ways. Fit in. Or get out."

I could have ignored it, deleted it, or responded "That comment is not our community". But Waleed is wiser than that.  He knows that the writer is part of our community, and denying or ignoring what is in our midst does not make it go away.

The month-long fasting of Ramadan, like the Christian fasting of Lent or the Jewish fast of Yom Kippur, is both a personal and communal experience. For individuals it is a practice of self-discipline and empathy.  Waleed exercised both in his response. 

Up for a pre-dawn meal before his day of fasting began, he wrote to the commenter by name -

"During the month of Ramadan we are taught to be kind to our friends, family and neighbours which would include you as well ...

As we fast from sun up to sun down, we focus on giving back and being thankful for the numerous blessings God has given us.

I thought I’d respond to your comment with some insight as to what Ramadan is and what this “ritual” that you are referring to stands for.

Now to the second part of your comment “Fit in or get out”.

My young family and I moved to Grey County 3 years ago; my day job is working with the people most in need in our community which is the most rewarding feeling on earth. Over the past few years I’ve had the privilege and the honour to visit every nook and corner of our amazing region and our amazing Country. I’m 28 and a father of two now but by the age of 24 I had had the honour of visiting every single Canadian Province including the Territories; further more I have also had the privilege to visit 42 of the 50 states of our neighbours to the South.

What I learned during my extensive travels of our amazing country and continent is that we are a diverse nation and a very accepting nation so the concept of “Fit in or get out” doesn’t really fit well here.

Over the past three years in Grey County my immediate family has made millions of dollars of direct investments in our area and I have had the honour of sitting on various important local and regional committees that do wonderful work and envision a successful, bright and diverse future where there is less of “Fitting in or getting out” and more of “Come on in and let’s all get to work.”

My apologies for the long message, my intention here is to perhaps clear up some of the misconceptions that you might have had as I’m a firm believer in the fact that a lot of this “Fit in or get out” approach comes from a fear of the unknown.

I look forward to perhaps sitting down over coffee one day and hopefully that way you can see that while some of our “rituals” might be different, our humanity and love for community is the same.

With love and respect - WALEED





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