How it started
My background and training never hinted I could even think of becoming an “author”. As time and life experiences marched on, feelings of expression and sharing ideas outweighed anything else.
In early 2011, I found myself in a challenging position – I was out of work. I had some savings. I always wanted to make something. I knew what I wanted to do. I had begun writing a few years back. The time would have to be now. I decided to write a book, my first.
For the next 6 months, Khadijah goes to School became my full time job. After an intense effort, it was published in early summer 2011.
Two themes: Helping yourself and Helping other people™ & A story about You…
This project means so many things to me and has taught me so much. Khadijah goes to School has several themes in it. Essentially, I wanted to share ideas I didn’t see growing up about Education/Life Skills, Cultural Identity, and Inner Psychology.
Khadijah goes to School is a book about Human Progress – Hope, Help, and Struggle. These ideas relate to everyone. The themed sub-title: A story about You… tells the reader this book is personal, and is for them.
This is shown by a series of explicit Ideas that relate to inner psychology/“The Self” throughout the book. Ideas are organized around the central theme of helping yourself and helping other people™
Moreover, the central help theme is enforced through the story, a young girl, Khadijah, with anxiety about going to school. There was strong feedback from readers saying they had a life experience or knew of someone with anxiety related issues.
Fear vs. Human Potential
Through education, we can train ourselves to challenge anxiety (or another treatable cognitive issue) by learning coping strategies, even weakening it severely in some cases. Khadijah goes to School promotes an educational experience by self-reflection and encourages dialogue with others to discuss and learn ways to cope with fear, an underlying emotion limiting human potential (a foundational theme in the book). The discussions in turn, re-enforce the central theme of the book: helping yourself and other people™.
It was very promising when I heard Khadijah goes to School was actually given to children (and adults) who were challenged with anxiety as a way to help them deal with going to school or faced with new beginnings. There is always a new beginning. Khadijah goes to School uses “going to school” really as a direct Idea and also symbolically, to discuss the unknown.
NOW Magazine from Toronto (the issue with Jack Layton on the cover), was the first Official Media source to give Khadijah goes to School a review. They said the book was innovative, colourful, and groundbreaking. (nowtoronto.com/books/story.cfm?content=182393)
A good number of Reviews/Stories followed after including:
“A bridge-building concept” – OMNI News (@ 1:20 into segment)
More Media can be found here: khadijahgoestoschool.com/media
Khadijah goes to School was launched in several cities including: Toronto, Chicago, Montreal, Ottawa, Kingston and Windsor. The first print run is officially sold out. The year finished up with over 5000 facebook fans from all over the world. (facebook.com/khadijahgoestoschool.)
“Now people from your culture will feel like they are a part of something”
After my book tour, I visited some local libraries to have the book made available. One of the librarians thanked me, I asked why. “Now people from your culture will feel like they are a part of something.” I knew there was a need, but it struck me. Others not from my background also felt the same way. I had many more similar encounters and soon learned about Equity groups advocating for Diversity and Social Justice in the Educational System. There actually always was an urgent need to reflect the Identities and experiences of minorities within the larger mainstream. Work is already underway (for many years), but there is still much more work needed to be done here.
Given the current political climate, it’s absolutely critical to have more Islamic experiences reflected in the Educational system (and in general) so students can balance what they hear and learn. Stereotypes can only be challenged with more education.
Khadijah in Society – The Khadijah goes to School Litmus Test
Khadijah goes to School prompted many questions on the ground this year. The book’s relationship with People is foundational. There were many questions ranging from Ideas of psychology, to the artistic style of the book and also the “Aladdin” type theme.
It certainly acted as an interesting Islamic litmus test. Is Khadijah a male or female name? How do you say Khadijah? Who is Khadijah? Is Khadijah a “black” name? Is Khadijah an Arabic name? Is this “Islamic?” Is this “Hebrew?” What is this script? Is this script South Asian? Why does the book open right to left? Is Allah only for Muslims? What is she wearing on her head? (hijab) Why does she wear that? Is Khadijah an immigrant? Is Khadijah a Muslim? Why is she standing beside the Canadian flag? What is the significance of the other characters in the book? (Arjun, David, The Teacher) and many more questions.
Like Alladin, Khadijah goes to School certainly has that WEST meets EAST and EAST meets WEST experience to it. It takes its Islamicness to society, to serve as a Dialogue (bridge-building) tool for all readers. Incidentally, Alladin is a Middle Eastern folk tale related by a Syrian Christian Arab storyteller named Hanna from Aleppo which broke into Europe while he was in France. Most of the people in Aladdin are Muslims with some additional characters. Many throughout the past 2 centuries have been curious and intrigued by Alladin.
Curiousity has also been a friend of Khadijah goes to School. The project has been a good educator. To the many questions on Islam, came answers, and surprisingly, not always from Muslims, but people of other faiths took part in clarification. This makes a great hybrid experience of Education, culture, and a book for all ages.
The Islamic theme has a relationship to a foundational underlying idea: tell your story. Khadijah goes to School is an explicit Experience including culturally, sometimes it just needs to be done that way. Moreover, “The Story” has many dimensions. The book stresses Ideas of Human Potential and Human Progress in symbolic ways.
The Imam always says give something to your neighbour
The Imam at the mosque always says give something to your neighbour. I agree. I always wanted to design something I could actually give my neighbour, an item that would survive longer than a samosa’s life span . It would be an item that would be a part of me and be a part of them, something that could stay for years.
Khadijah goes to School was gifted to neighbours, teachers, colleagues and people of various faiths this past year. I heard back from some saying colleagues were curious and learned by asking. I also heard about other Muslim co-workers joining in the conversations and feeling empowered, sharing their experiences.
An Agent for Social Justice
Working in tandem, is the diversity theme of understanding “the other.” There are many ideas that support the concept of Helping Other People in the book.
There’s ’s more:
The Educational and Life Skills themes relate to all. The strong Human Values theme makes Khadijah goes to School an agent for Social Justice, hinged on principles of equality and solidarity. It promotes The People, Ideas of “The Self”, personal/collective Contribution, the (re)defining of what Education is, and ultimately challenges stereotypes in Identity (notably about Islam/anti-Islamic bigotry, Middle Eastern & (South) Asian societies, ALSO direct ideas related to “Self-Identity”) and Ideas (self-limiting beliefs/misnomers) all via dialogue and getting the conversation started naturally.
Further, it should be the moral duty of any understanding citizen and government to speak out and continually speak out against the demonization and injustice towards a People (in contemporary International times, Muslims and people that look like Muslims have been targeted, e.g. most recently the Sikh Temple shootings in the summer of 2012 and the Joplin Mosque arson fire during Ramadan 2012). It is unacceptable to classify all people from a group the same way. The danger lies in such ideas becoming systemic. Statistics show hatred on the rise against people who look like Muslims and policies that have racist undertones to them. Imagine being the one profiled?
The solution? This is really about critical dialogue and asking the tough questions in a space of respect. Mis-information is heavy. Dialogue is key, especially the kind you can naturally feel without even thinking about “Dialogue.” Khadijah goes to School in this sense is an inter-faith tool, a bridge where the Arjun’s, David’s and Khadijah’s of society meet, discuss and learn about each other. The bottom line? The more information, I believe, leads to a better understanding which can affect policy in more accommodating ways. The opposite is true with less information.
Khadijah goes to School also addresses the stereotypical “label” the same way. In the book, the label “uneducated” is challenged declaring that “there is no person in the history of this world who was uneducated, because such a person never existed”. How many times have we labelled someone uneducated just because they didn’t have a degree? No one owns Education. There are many ways to be educated. It’s dangerous to think one is more intelligent than another just because one holds a degree and one doesn’t. Everyone is educated; everyone knows something in various ways, you can use what you have right now. There’s always a starting point, learning never ends, and it’s for all, not some.
Moreover, the purpose of introducing the anti-label concept is to further develop conversations about stereotyping so critical questions can be asked and stereotypes can be challenged through education, with some being abrogated.
As mentioned earlier, Khadijah, Arjun and David are introduced in the story to represent Society/Multi-culturalism/Multi-ethnicities/Multi-faith so that that conversation can be had.
Khadijah goes to School is a resource that is meant to use in an Educational setting (resource guide online: khadijahgoestoschool.com/resource) with questions in the book, including those that ask about Diversity and Stereotyping so that that conversation can be had as well.
9/11 Social Justice Press Release
Finally, the 9/11 Press Release is a way to challenge mis-information some have about Islam and Muslims (and people of other faiths who resemble Muslims i.e. Sikhs, Hindus…and definitely leading to broader conversations about profiling and stereo-typing).
Undoubtedly, the murder of innocent people on 9/11 is unacceptable through and through. Undoubtedly, the murder of innocent people anywhere, is unacceptable through and through.
Some, however, have used 9/11 to demonize the common Muslim for political problems. Khadijah goes to School uses 9/11 as an opportunity to promote a wider understanding of Muslims (and people of other faiths) and ideas of peace and social justice. Too many innocent people have died. A single group isn’t acting alone. We, as People, as citizens need to end this madness with responsible governments who do what they say and say what they do. Read Why the 9/11 Press Release?
Just as Christians cannot be characterized one way, neither can Muslims (and people of other faiths). Does this need to still be mentioned? Unfortunately, this idea will float around until more awareness is created of the contribution of such minority cultures. It’s ill conceived to think a single community all think the same way (Related Article: Jews against Islamophobia – Anti-Muslim Discrimination ). Further, there’s a war out there and various reasons for war out there. Each side will rally against the other. All communities have the right to defend themselves (especially ones that have been militarily invaded), not just a single community.
Further, “The Mainstream” is not totally aware of “The Minority’s” beliefs and practices, often mixing various religious and/or political ideas together. Recent events have shown there is still a general lack of awareness and understanding of such minority communities. This can be problematic as it can reduce the level of understanding between people.
Too much has happened and it’s now become dangerous. This is an unprecedented time in history and The Golden Moment has arrived for the likes of Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and the like to step into the mainstream. The onus is on us, and them.
Telling stories and sharing experiences with the Mainstream, which automatically promote dialogue, will uncover the veil of mis-information and in some cases, cultural secrecy if you will. This is not only educational, it’s essential. The fact is everyday citizens from all faiths make contributions everywhere, but it may not be immediately obvious.
Notably, Khadijah goes to School is a contribution to People, Canada, and the rest of the world. Its message is to look closer, don’t judge a book by its cover, your beliefs may be challenged, and possibly improved. Moreover, its about learning about who you are and never underestimating your potential, rather exploring and learning about what can be possible, and then doing it.
Interesting activities along the way this past year
- The cover of the book painted with chalk in downtown Toronto
- The Khadijah goes to School APP available on the Apple App store
- Participated in a United Way campaign by selling Khadijah goes to School and donating half the proceeds
- Launched on Amazon.com
- SoundVision – the first store in Canada to offer Khadijah goes to School for sale
- Khadijah goes to School for outreach! Donated to hospitals in Ontario and Quebec
- Gifted to neighbours, friends, colleagues, complete strangers to share Ideas and Bridge-Build
- Media Reviews/Articles
New Edition now out! Bring Khadijah goes to School to your classroom, library and family
With a new edition now out, make your next book and resource purchase Khadijah goes to School for your classroom, library (Organization) and your family. Witness the conversations, take part in the discussions.
Khadijah goes to School makes an excellent gift you can give your neighbour and those you care about (including yourself ).
Help bring Khadijah goes to School to formal networks i.e. classrooms.
Do you know how? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
The cost per book is $10. Buy now.
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