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The Best of Stories | Lab Update

Lab Updates

Stories are fascinating and curious things we’ve passed down through generations since forever. They hold fragments we make up about ourselves in fantastical characters and journeys, but also little parcels of truth about where we come from and who we are. Stories have a special kind of allure—they give us the bits and pieces that allow us to truly see ourselves and connect with others. 

And while some stories engage and connect, others are divisive and threatening because they exclude, demean, and erase. When a single story becomes the entire definition of who you are and the only lens through which others see you, it’svery hard, more like excruciatingly difficult, to change a story about someone once it has spread and everyone believes it. All too often, we believe the single story told about a person or a community, allowing very little space for the possibilities of nuance, complexity, or even just a different story. 

For Muslims, stories have always played a central role in our cultures and histories. And, as a faith community reliant on the oral traditions, Islam lives through the stories we are taught. The Quran is described as the “best of stories” and Allah (SWT) in the third ayah of surah Yusuf emphasizes this, decreeing, “We relate to you (O Prophet) the best of stories through Our revelation of this Quran…” 

But stories in which Muslims play the lead characters have not always served us well. Muslims in Canada, and more broadly the West, have had to endure survive centuries of terrible, single stories. These stories are one-dimensional, racist, and Islamophobic. And they flood the public space, unhindered, and with no alternatives. The narrative landscape—think of it more conceptually like a narrative ocean where stories, storytellers, networks, environments, behaviours, individuals, and audiences all meet—is dangerous for Muslims. 

Enter the Lab. 

To reiterate, this project is not a solution. Shifting landscapes of any kind, let alone narrative ones, require several dynamic, multi-level paths that all work in tandem. But the Lab is a starting point to build those foundations, structures, and networks crucial to shifting the narrative for and about Canadian Muslims. 

Written by Angie Balata | June 10, 2022