Abstract 1 (Personal essay):
My name is Aquil Virani and I’m a mixed-race Ismaili Muslim visual artist of Indian and French heritage, living in Canada. By September 2021, I will complete a bilingual “Muslim Futurist” anthology book of Ottawa-based Muslim artists and writers titled “Ottawa Inshallah: Dreaming of a better future.” My essay recaps the context of this project and my personal art practice before offering some reflections and lessons learned from my experience. I suggest that the interconnected nature of social justice issues cannot be overstated – for example, how capitalist structures and income inequality create a world where many Muslims struggle to find the luxurious leisure time to even participate in futurist dreaming. Similarly, the negative lived experiences of many Muslims in North America push us to dream in “negative” rights – freedom from discrimination, freedom from stereotypes, freedom from mistreatment – rather than prioritizing new constructions and “positive” rights like the right to adequate housing or the right to clean water on a healthy planet. I use my decision to accept financial support from the City of Ottawa as an example to posit that our way forward has to involve some kind of reasonable compromise rather than rigid “purity” ethics; this is the position we are in as changemakers navigating an imperfect situation and power imbalance. I also suggest that acknowledging and unlearning our “blind spots” is crucial for a thriving Muslim futurist movement, given the immense global diversity of Muslim identities across divisions of gender, age, ethnicity, ability, sexual orientation, class and culture. Finally, I reflect on the utility of the “futurist” mindset, an approach to be used not only as a personal or cathartic healing exercise, but a strategy for envisioning what justice looks like when we feel it in our grasp.
Abstract 2 (Republishing artwork):
My name is Aquil Virani and I’m a mixed-race Ismaili Muslim visual artist of Indian and French heritage, living in Canada. By September 2021, I will complete a bilingual “Muslim Futurist” anthology book of Ottawa-based Muslim artists and writers titled “Ottawa Inshallah: Dreaming of a better future.” With the artists and writers’ permission, we could directly re-publish a few of their artworks or poems. Instead of an essay by me accompanying the work (proposed in the first abstract submitted), we could include their short artist statements with the work with a short introduction to the project. In one of the submissions, for example, Naheen Ahmed (Self_Saboteur) illustrates a colourful scene of a community-oriented and accessible mosque. The artists “hopes to see community healing circles where Muslims have conversations about difficult topics, regardless of age, gender or ethnicity” in addition to “more interpersonal activities in the mosque where Muslims are accepted as they are, free of judgement.” In Sarah-Mecca Abdourahman’s work, she explores the idea of connecting with her roots, painting a scene of her family sleeping at the airport on their way to Somalia. “While the visibility of black figuration in Canadian painting has been limited – especially that of Black Muslims,” she says, “my painting asserts my right to be represented within fine arts institutions, bolstering further visibility of Black Muslims in Canada.” Shamima Khan is a writer and a poet who published her first poem at the age of seven. In her poem “Identity,” she writes, “for when my family / immigrated to Canada / we made a choice / a conscious decision / to make our home / here, in what some call / Ottawa / Alhamdulillah.”