British Columbia

Husband and wife explore how gender affects their experience as Muslims

Being Muslim: The Gendered Experience is a discussion presented by the Vancouver Biennale.

Being Muslim: The Gendered Experience is a discussion presented by Vancouver Biennale

Wife and husband team Shagufta Pasta and Aslam Bulbulia are hosting a panel discussion in Vancouver on Saturday titled Being Muslim: The Gendered Experience. (Aslam Bulbulia)

A husband and wife team are hosting a discussion Saturday aimed at exploring how gender shapes their experience as Muslims.

The discussion, titled Being Muslim: The Gendered Experience, is part of the Vancouver Biennale — a bi-annual city-wide public art exhibition.

The discussion will be a safe space for interested people to share their personal experiences and stories, says Shagufta Pasta, a University of British Columbia educator and co-facilitator of the event.

"We really want to create a space for solidarity and a place where people can see one another's experiences," said Pasta.

"It'll be the community that brings the magic and the stories."

Visibly Muslim

Pasta said her experience being a Muslim can be very different from that of her husband, Aslam Bulbulia, because of her gender. Pasta describes herself as visibly Muslim, partly because she wears a head scarf.

"We're both trying to live a life where we're living modestly and trying to be visibly Muslim, but when I'm visibly Muslim often concerns of safety come up," said Pasta.

She said she's often concerned about what people think of her when she's walking down the street — largely due to people thinking her head scarf is a symbol of oppression.

"I've worn the scarf since I was 14. It feels like you're in a place of justifying a lot of the time. It interweaves with a lot of our lives."

Conversely, her husband Bulbulia — who is co-facilitating the discussion — isn't often seen as being oppressed, but rather as a perceived threat.

'Men being terrorists'

Bulbulia said he sometimes encounters animosity when dealing with authority figures.

"I do feel threatened by state authorities, police, when moving through an airport for example," said Bulbulia.

"It has an impact on me, even in a professional setting. This idea of Muslim men being terrorists."

Being Muslim: The Gendered Experience is facilitated by Simon Fraser University's Centre for Comparative Muslim Studies and takes place Saturday at 5 p.m. in Vancouver's Vanier Park.

With files The Early Edition

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