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Quebec Muslim Youth Given a Voice during Anti-Racism Action Week. Silk Road Institute Joins The Art of Inclusion as a Lead Partner.

Quebec Muslim Youth Given a Voice during Anti-Racism Action Week

The Art of Inclusion Project to be profiled at Systemic Racism Forum

OTTAWA, March 24, 2017—Young artists featured in the groundbreaking “Art of Inclusion: Muslim Youth Take the Lead” exhibition, will speak to the importance of using the arts to combat Islamophobia and to enhance inclusion, during the upcoming Anti-Racism Week public Forum, slated for March 24, 2017, at UQAM, Pavillon Athanase-David, room D-R200. The event will gather major thought leaders, activists, government officials, students and artists, from across the province to explore ways to combat racism, and systemic racism in particular, across the province.

Following the successful presentation of the “Art of Inclusion” educational exhibition, at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 2016, the Michaëlle Jean Foundation and the Institute for Research and Education on Race Relations were invited to present the project at the Anti-Racism Forum. As the lead partners of the arts empowerment project, they have invited some of the artists from the exhibition to speak directly to the issues raised by the artwork. In this, featured speakers will be Peter Flegel, Director of Programs and Communications at the Michaëlle Jean Foundation, Fo Niemi, Secretary-Treasurer from the Institute for Research and Education on Race Relations, as well as artists Aïssatou Balde, Mercedeh, Baroque, Abdelhamid Beni, Yousra Benziane, Essraa Daoui, Wurood Habib, Chaime Khouldi, and Zahraa Sbaiti.  

Silk Road Institute Joins The Art of Inclusion as a Lead Partner

With its focus on mobilizing a multisector group of stakeholders around implementing solutions to challenges raised by the exhibition, project organizers have also invited the Silk Road Institute—an organization dedicated to promoting cross-cultural exchange, and the artistic and cultural expressions of Muslim Canadians and Canada’s under-represented cultural communities —to join the project a as a lead partner. To that end, Bochra Manaï, Board member of the Institute, will also be speaking at the event. The three organizations will be collaborating over a three-year period to enhance youth cultural leadership among Muslim youth and implement strategies to increase social, economic, cultural and democratic inclusion.

About the Art of Inclusion: Muslim Youth Take the Lead

The Art of Inclusion: Muslim Youth Take the Lead is part of the 4th Wall: Make the Invisible Visible exhibition series, organized by the Michaëlle Jean Foundation in partnership with major Canadian museums and art galleries. The exhibition was presented at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts between November 11, 2016, and January 6, 2017 at the international education and art therapy workshop Michel de la Chenelière. A public forum mobilized community, business, public and international leaders, to build solutions to issues addressed in the artwork. The project has already been taken up by three French museums in Toulouse, Lyon and Marseille. Each museum is using a different art form to empower youth from underserved neighbourhoods to raise awareness about issues they face. Canadian project organizers are currently working on bringing the exhibition to Quebec City as their contribution to the healing process being spearheaded to counteract the impact of the January 29 terror attack on the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City. They are also laying the groundwork for the project to go national, as part of a pan-Canadian effort to challenge the rise in intolerance being witnessed across Canada. Visit for more details.


The Silk Road Institute shocked by Québec attack. Calls for positive discourse on minorities.

The Silk Road Institute is shocked and deeply disturbed by the terrorist attack at a mosque in Québec City, that has left at least six dead and 19 injured.

“It is with shock and sadness that we hear of this horrific act of violence. Our thoughts, prayers, and unconditional support are with the victims and their loved ones in these trying times,” said Silk Road Institute Chair Mohamed Shaheen. “It is imperative that we continue to strengthen communal bonds and tackle all forms of prejudice.”

“We are urging elected officials, media, and pundits to rethink how they talk about minorities and Muslims within our society,” said Silk Road Institute Vice Chair Bochra Manaï. “We need a positive discourse on these groups.”

The Silk Road Institute is a Montréal-based organization dedicated to promoting the artistic expressions of Canada’s under-represented communities and Québec and Canadian Muslims.

‘Little Mosque on the Prairie’ Creator Zarqa Nawaz to deliver Silk Road Institute Keynote Address in Montreal

Zarqa Nawaz, author and creator of the hit CBC comedy, ‘Little Mosque on the Prairie’, will be delivering the Keynote address during the Silk Road Institute’s annual Gala in Montreal on May 30.

Ms. Nawaz will also be among those honoured with the organization’s inaugural Averroes award which recognizes exceptional contributions to furthering cross-cultural dialogue and exchange.

Ms. Nawaz is the creator of the world’s first sitcom about a Muslim community living in the west. ‘Little Mosque on the Prairie’ premiered to record ratings on the CBC in 2007. It finished airing its 91st episode in 2012 after completing six seasons and is now being broadcast in over 60 countries.

More recently, Ms. Nawaz released a memoir titled, “Laughing all the way to the mosque”.

Ms. Nawaz will be available for media interviews and photo opportunities from 5 to 6pm.

The Silk Road Institute ( is a Montreal based, non-profit, organization dedicated to furthering cross-cultural exchange and building bridges across Montreal’s diverse communities through thought-provoking discussions and creative artistic expressions.

The organization will also be honouring Bochra Manaï, and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AGTC). Linda Milrod, Head of Exhibitions and Collections at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto will be receiving the award on behalf of the AGTC.

What: Silk Road Institute Annual Gala

Date: Saturday, 30th May, 2015

Time: 6 p.m. EST

Location: 3650 Rue McTavish, Montréal, QC


SRI Executive Director interviewed on CBC’s The 180 with Jim Brown

The Silk Road Institute’s Executive Director, Mohamed Shaheen, discussed today on CBC Radio One’s The 180 with Jim Brown, Islamophobia, society’s responsibility in countering it, and how Muslims can help change perceptions by strengthening the Muslim Canadian cultural experience.

Listen or download the full interview here (interview starts at 26:30).

Op-Ed by SRI Executive Director published

An Op-Ed by the Silk Road Institute’s Executive Director, titled It’s up to Muslims to become part of the mainstream Canadian cultural experience, was published in today’s Montreal Gazette.



It’s up to Muslims to become part of the mainstream Canadian cultural experience

By Mohamed Shaheen, Special to the Montreal Gazette


Last month, tragedy struck our nation. Canadians were shaken by the murder of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo in Ottawa.
For the Canadian Muslim community, a familiar scenario played out. It started with a feeling of dread and the desperate hope that the perpetrators were not Muslims. What followed was a sincere and swift condemnation by Muslim organizations, as well as by individuals via social media.

Some within and outside the Muslim community argue that Muslims should not feel compelled to publicly condemn every act of violence, because they are not responsible for the actions of a minority who profess to abide by their faith.

The argument is certainly not without merit, and I don’t doubt that many Muslims — while sincere with their denunciations — would rather do so solely out of compassion, instead of feeling the need to dispel any notion that they support violence.

The fact is, with so much misinformation and misunderstanding, Muslim leaders must make clear to their fellow Canadians the true and peaceful nature of Islam.

The causes of how we came to be here are several. Certainly, Islamophobia, and those who maliciously use such tragedies to incite hatred toward Muslims, is a factor. Additionally, decades of skewed representations of Muslims in mainstream media have left some with prejudices that are hard to dispel. But there’s more at play. It’s also up to the Muslim community to take responsibility for altering how they are perceived.

On the day of the Ottawa attack, while my wife was finally emerging from one of the last federal buildings to have the lockdown lifted, I was in Montreal about to start moderating a pre-scheduled discussion with Muslim author and activist Monia Mazigh about the launch of her latest book, a novel about the lives of several Muslim Canadian women.

The audience was diverse, a testament to the multicultural fabric of this nation. Surprisingly (or not), as I was observing the audience from the stage, I realized how very few people from within the Muslim community had come to support an author who was doing her best to showcase and humanize the Muslim Canadian experience.

This is hardly an isolated incident. Many Muslim Canadians embraced CBC’s Little Mosque on the Prairie during its six-season run, lauding the show for its power to dispel stereotypes. But Zarqa Nawaz, the show’s creator, has hardly been celebrated or even acknowledged within the community.

It is through cultural, intellectual and artistic expression that every community in Canada has captured the Canadian imagination, and become part of it.

The truth — the sad truth — is that Canadian Muslims have yet to succeed in becoming part of the mainstream Canadian cultural experience, and on this issue, much of the blame lies with them. We have neglected to cultivate artistic and cultural expressions within our community, have provided little support to our artists and thinkers and have not prioritized the establishment of institutions dedicated to promoting such issues. By failing to showcase the Muslim Canadian experience, Muslims have left a gaping void, where others, from minority fundamentalists to Islamophobes, can speak on their behalf.

There is no excuse for bigotry, and while Canadian Muslims join their fellow citizens in sadness during this national tragedy, they will have to contend with a backlash resulting from misplaced anger. But unless they take control of their own voice and become a more integral part of the cultural landscape, they will always find themselves on the defensive when acts of abhorrent violence are committed by a minority within their community.

Mohamed Shaheen is a Ph.D. candidate at McGill University and executive director of the Silk Road Institute, a Montreal-based non-profit organization dedicated to promoting cross-cultural exchange.

Silk Road Institute celebrates its 1-year Anniversary

How time flies! The Silk Road Institute debuted in summer 2013 to encourage thought-provoking discussions and creative artistic expressions, all while strengthening the bonds of community and cross-cultural ties.

On May 24th 2014, the Silk Road Institute celebrated its first year of providing a vibrant outlet for Montreal’s unique brand of cultural, artistic, and intellectual expression.

Silk Road Institute opposes the Charte des valeurs

Montreal, March 21st, 2014 – On the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Silk Road Institute asserted today its firm opposition to the proposed Charte des valeurs. Despite the bill’s stated purpose of creating a society of equal citizenship, the proposed charter will result in discrimination within state institutions, creating a two-tier class of citizenship.

“The proposed charter threatens the personal rights of members of Quebec society, and will result in the isolation of certain communities from the public sphere.” said Mohamed Shaheen, Executive Director of the Silk Road Institute. “As an organization who’s mandate is to further cross-cultural exchange and to build bridges across Montreal’s communities, we join many of Quebec’s civic and community organizations in opposing the charter.”

Caroline Mailloux, Outreach coordinator for the Silk Road Institute, added “The charter is not needed to assure religious neutrality of the state, as this is already the law.”

The Silk Road Institute continues to encourage Quebecers from all backgrounds to build and strengthen communal ties. We firmly believe that the strength of Quebec has, and continues to stem from our common affinity of respect, compassion, and human rights for all.

For more information:

Elliot Montpellier, The Silk Road Institute

About the Silk Road Institute:

The Silk Road Institute is a non-profit, grassroots community organization, dedicated to the promotion of artistic expression and thought-provoking discussions to further cross cultural exchange and the building of bridges across Montreal’s diverse communities.


The Silk Road Institute launches

The Silk Road Institute has officially launched and invites you to attend our upcoming first event: Viva Voce – A Performing Arts Night.

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Looking forward to seeing you at our upcoming events.