Tell us about yourself.
I am a proud and passionate Edmontonian and live on the north side. I am also a pretty unique mix (Turkish and Indo-Fijian) and have yet to meet someone who is the same mix. I am a proud Islamic Academy alumni and also attended M.E LaZerte, MacEwan University and finally, the University of Alberta (Education).
How did you become a Community Relations Advisor in the area of Equity, Inclusion and Human Rights with the City of Edmonton, and what interested you in this role?
I was a political staffer with the Alberta NDP for four years. After a change in government, I wanted to continue doing work in the area of public engagement, community development and policy reform. I started with the EPS in March 2020 and have been a specialist in public engagement and community-led policy development since.
What has been your most interesting project as a Community Relations Advisor?
The Commitment to Action was the largest-ever engagement initiative done by the EPS. It sought to engage the city’s BIPOC and underserved communities, and from it came several policy recommendations and reforms that can meaningfully change how Edmontonians are served. These include lenses that center on equity, inclusion, human rights, accessibility and trauma-informed approaches.
Tell us about “Mac at McDougall” and your role there.
MAC at McDougall is by far the most exciting project I have ever led or been a part of. Currently, MAC at McDougall is a partnership to create a Muslim space at McDougall United Church. We currently offer Jumu’ah, Taraweeh and monthly programming. The Church was once home to the Symphony Orchestra and Edmonton Opera- it was designed to magnify and beatify sound. From the Muslim perspective, this has meant there is no place the Quran sounds more beautiful in Edmonton.
After purchasing the building, we will develop the space and land into a permanent community hub that serves the entire community. We envision a space that is flexible, regularly used, and of benefit to the downtown community. A place to gather, pray, perform, live and visit. All overlooking the beautiful downtown river valley.
What was most surprising to you about “Mac at McDougall”?
Muslims have been on treaty 6 for more than 120 years. Early fur traders, business people and farmers made this place their home and fostered a sense of community so strong that when the Al-Rashid mosque was first being built, non-, Muslims supported and donated to the cause. McDougall is a building that was standing and being used at that time (c.1930).
So often, ‘interfaith’ and ‘Da’wa’ are limited to open houses or one-off events to serve the community. This is a rare opportunity to build relationships, foster faith, and connect with people in the heart of our city.
Can you tell us about your role at “Paths for People”?
I am a director at Paths for People specializing in Public Engagement. My goal is to get people excited and on board with active transportation in Edmonton.
“Paths for People” has many projects, from Contraflow Series to GPS Draw YEG; what has been your favourite project?
My favourite has to be “A Taste of Open Streets.” People always talk about how amazing and walkable streets are in Europe or Asia. It is something that is achievable here, and it is up to us to ensure planners and policymakers are making the right investments.
How do you manage your schedule with many different roles and projects? What motivates you to be so active?
I’m on two more boards (a city board and a provincial party), and I have to say that I rely on my calendar (lol). But honestly, it's important to reflect on what is taking up time in your day, evaluate and prioritize. It also means you sometimes step away when you need to. I find that Allah you ca(swa) can bless your time in ways n’t always quantify. Fajr is an important blessing of time.
Out of the projects you have worked on, is there an achievement or contribution you are most proud of?
At the height of COVID, when we weren’t allowed to pray Taraweeh or have Iftars together, I felt pretty downhearted. This was when we approached the City Manager to try and do something. We removed noise restrictions so the athan can be made on outdoor speakers in Edmonton. What a great way to bring people together… the Athan! How fitting; the call to come together brought people together. We also provided some guidance (and a toolkit) to Masaajid across Edmonton to ensure they were still respectful in their neighbourhoods- but also so they could reach out to their neighbours and invite them into their community centres.
What’s been the most challenging project you have worked on and why?
As much as MAC at McDougall is the most exciting project, it has also been the most complex. We aren’t simply thinking of a musallah; we are thinking of a dynamic space that can host conferences and performances. It has an intergenerational and affordable component supporting small businesses and serving communities in need. This is all in the heart of our city, in a building with a historical designation overlooking the river valley.
There needs to be a template to follow. This is where collaboration, creative thinking and partnerships shine (feel free to get in touch!)
Are there any upcoming projects that you are working on that people should keep an eye out for?
There will be a lot of exciting projects and partnerships with MAC at McDougall; follow us on Instagram (@macatmcdougall). Our sister project is the MAC Evansdale development. Another incredible school and community center in the heart of the north side.