TWO YEARS IN: RECAP, REFLECTIONS AND LOOKING FORWARD
March 23, 2022 | Sha’ban 20, 1443 AH
Assalamu Alaykum fellow Canadian Muslim brothers and sisters,
Two years ago, at the onset of the pandemic, we came together as health care professionals, faith leaders and community leaders to establish a task force that aimed to first and foremost protect families and save lives. We took proactive and precautionary actions to fill policy and program gaps left by governments and public health, while providing rapidly accessible, contextualized information to community members and institutions. We recognized the global, direct and continued impact of the pandemic especially on racialized and marginalized communities, and have sought to empower individuals to make informed decisions to keep ourselves, our families, communities and our institutions safe and healthy.
There has been no shortage of challenges that this pandemic has brought forth, including first and foremost the loss of thousands of Canadian lives; thousands that have experienced and are living with ongoing symptoms and residual effects of COVID-19; new and emerging variants that may be more transmissible, cause severe disease or both; and significant negative impacts on our healthcare system and healthcare workers, businesses, employment, schools, mental health, spirituality and social connectedness. It has been exhausting to keep pace with the evolving science and government or public health guidelines, increasing attacks against Canadian Muslims and Muslim organizations, working or studying virtually while trying to care for children or the elderly, all amidst supply chain issues and sharply rising costs of living.
Over the past two years, our efforts have been mostly volunteer-driven, and supported by the Muslim Medical Association of Canada, the Canadian Council of Imams and Islamic Relief Canada. Many leading Canadian Muslim organizations have been instrumental partners, contributing their time, resources and experiences on various initiatives. Our efforts have focused on evidence-based health information messaging, establishing and updating best practices for safe mosque operations, delivering a multi-pronged vaccine confidence campaign including validating COVID-19 vaccines as Halal, promoting and supporting mosques as vaccination clinics, conducting research projects, developing guidelines for safe observances of Ramadan and Eid, and a HEPA air purifier pilot program to optimize ventilation at mosques and Islamic schools.
We have thus far developed and released over 31 statements, 9 guidelines, 11 town halls, 5 sets of posters, 20 social media infographic series, a mental health workshop series, a public health and Islamic history month series, a repository for multilingual health resources, an information portal for healthcare professionals, and facilitated COVID-19 specific Friday sermon campaigns.
We have advocated with decision-makers for paid sick leave, facilitating the timely return to prayers without distancing, funding for Canadian Muslim institutions, social justice and security for Muslims and other vulnerable groups. We were honoured to be nominated as a pandemic pillar by HealthyDebate.ca, to be awarded a grant from the Toronto Non-profit Network along with several invitations to participate in community meetings with NGOs, provincial and federal government agencies without actively seeking such opportunities.
We have collaborated with local public health units, community COVID-19 task forces, provincial governments and international Muslim COVID-19 task forces. We have engaged with stakeholders through surveys, town halls and direct feedback through various mediums. Our work has been appreciated and featured widely Alhamdulillah via hundreds of written press features, regular mainstream and ethnic media coverage, on numerous social media platforms and by Canadian Muslim institutions, Health Canada, hospitals, public health departments, community partners, and presented at 5 national and international conferences. We have tried our best to listen to all critical feedback received and iteratively evolve to produce comprehensive, equitable, evidence-informed and nuanced deliverables for Canadian Muslims.
Looking forward, we would like to plant a seed of hope which captures our learned experiences, and celebrates and capitalizes on our successes. While the pandemic is not over yet, we have been through 5 waves already to know that we must continue to stay humble and nimble, and willing to modify our behaviours according to the evolving circumstances. Today, we are in a much better place than where we started, as we know more about COVID-19 and how it spreads, we have safe and effective vaccines with more than 90% of our communities protected, treatments are available to keep patients out of hospital, and masks and testing kits are widely available and accessible. We can and must use our knowledge, experiences and the tools available to us to our advantage, and so that we may safely lead more normal lives than we have in the past couple of years.
We would like to take a moment to acknowledge and thank you for your patience, cooperation and understanding during such difficult times. Thank you for looking out for each other, and doing what is best and safest not just for ourselves, but for our families, our communities, and for all Canadians. Finally, we would like to thank our three levels of government, public health, healthcare workers, essential workers and the incredible volunteers and operational staff who have dedicated countless hours towards helping their fellow Canadians.
We pray for this pandemic to end with His mercy and that we do not forget the lessons learned through successes and failures. As we reflect upon our shortcomings, we take this opportunity to reorient our lives to prioritize our familial relationships and responsibilities, reinvigorate our spirituality, and uphold our social responsibilities towards wider society and the environment. The strength and success of our communities depends on us continuing to work together collaboratively for years to come InshaAllah, setting aside individual and organizational interests, with the purpose of seeking His pleasure, blessings and forgiveness.
With peace and love,
Dr. M. Hashim Khan, Imam Refat Mohamed and Rufaida Mohammed
Co-Chairs, Canadian Muslim COVID-19 Task Force (CMCTF)