Profiled by: Raja El-Mazini*
Sr. Rani Claire is an avid and dedicated member of MIA’s Events committee. Whether it is a community dinner, carnival, seminar or workshop, Sr.Rani is always working hard in the background, ensuring the event runs smoothly and successfully. She is an early immigrant and long time convert. Below is an excerpt of her interview with the Manitoba Muslim Magazine.
Raja: Can you tell me a bit about your background? Where you were born and raised; and how did you end up in Winnipeg?
Rani: I was born in a in the district of Ropar, which is in North India, an area which is popularly known as Punjab. My parents came to Canada in 1975 when I was 5 years old so I started my schooling (kindergarten) in Winnipeg. My father’s eldest brother advised my parents that Canada was a great country to raise a family and offered a good opportunity to find jobs. Winnipeg is not a popular city in Canada like, Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver, for me…..Winnipeg is “HOME”!
Raja: How were you first introduced to Islam?
Rani: I have always been surrounded with Islam. I was born in a Sikh family and my parents owned a grocery store. Our customers were from many faiths and diverse cultures which provided me with various exposures to multiculturalism. It was only in 1989 that I met a gentleman that helped me to choose the path of Islam.
Raja: What was the biggest influence in making that life changing decision?
Rani: Wish I had some amazing reason for the revert to Islam, but reality is that this life changing decision came about in my relationship and marriage. I have always been a spiritual person and always called upon a high power for answers. Each day I grew closer to the real meaning of Islam. Even to this day, I think we all search…that is our “jihad”. The marriage did not last but my decision will stay with me until I die. Alhumdu Allah!
I am keeping this question to a minimum, otherwise I could write a book. Hmmmm maybe that is something I should do one day. As I have seen and experienced much in my life time. For now, this is something for me to ponder upon, but I like the idea.
Raja: What was your first impression of the Winnipeg Muslim community?
Rani: Initially I was not involved with the Muslim community very much. There were not many programs for new converts in 1992 in Winnipeg that I was aware of. I would have definitely searched for more knowledge had I known of the opportunities that were available to me.
Raja: How did you first become involved in the Muslim Community?
Rani: I was approached by an MIA member to join the Events Committee. I took the challenge and it has been a wonderful pleasure ever since. It is a great chance to make positive changes for our community. I am able to meet so many people and learn so much from them. I just wish I could have done this sooner when I was younger and had more energy. Again this is the jihad, which we all go through.
Raja: Can you please describe your current role in the Manitoba Islamic Association?
Rani: I work in the Events Committee where we organize entire events from start to finish. This allows us to organize the event in such a way as to provide a smooth process throughout. We also help out other committees when called upon.
Raja: What attracted you the most this position and how long have you been involved?
Rani: I was approached by the MIA to assist with the Events Committee since I enjoy planning such activities. I am grateful for the opportunity and have been involved since January 2012.
Raja: What are your views on the MIA and its role in the Winnipeg Muslim Community?
Rani: The MIA can provide an opportunity for fellow Muslims to access information and provide a social setting to new and existing members of the community. Everyone could find a common bond to help us support each other in building a stronger community.
Raja: What are your thoughts on the community and challenges we currently face?
Rani: Our community is strong based on our individual cultures and traditions. Our challenge would be to work together to provide a strong and united community and support to new members.
Raja: With the community growing steadily, it seems increasingly difficult to attract Muslim youth and adults to various community events. In your opinion what are some barriers to bringing people out to activities and becoming active participants in community events?
Rani: One of the barriers would be to find a way to mix the modern world we are living in with the established traditions we have been raised with. By recognizing our past and the experiences we have gained, we need to move forward but never forget where we have come from.
Raja: What are something you think that MIA can do attract more youth and adults?
Rani: Possible solutions would be to have elders speak of their experiences to younger members or have younger members share their experiences with elders and between themselves. This can also be done across cultures. Similar to a Folklorama style, food based events (traditional and modern) can also attract people in a relaxed setting.
Raja: Where do you hope to see our community in 10-20 years from now?
Rani: I would like to see our community as a strong support to all Muslims throughout their lives starting from the youth born in Canada or new immigrants arriving in Canada. With education and participation in our community, we can provide access to all ages for support, guidance, and a sense of belonging, to the Muslim faith and beyond.