Aatif Baskanderi will be touring Newfoundland with his one-man show, Salaam B’y – A Story of a Muslim Newfoundlander from September 18th – 28th.
Baskanderi’s speaking tour grew out of an article he published on Facebook in June of this year. The piece describes what it was like to grow up Muslim in Clarenville in the early 90s.
“I originally wrote this article for my friends and released it on Facebook for my friends,” Baskanderi explained. “When I decided to make it public it kind of took off and went a little bit viral and turned into this speaking tour and now we’re going to be filming a documentary as well.”
Baskanderi will perform Salaam B’y in Grand Bank, Gander, Bishop’s Falls, Corner Brook, Clarenville, St. John’s, and Bell Island. In the show Baskanderi tells the story of his life, emphasizing how he was shaped by his childhood in Newfoundland. After each performance there will be a question and answer period facilitated by a local moderator.
“To be honest I have no idea what kind of questions I’ll get but I’ve never been shy about having a conversation with anyone, so I’m really looking forward to talking with the different communities,” Baskanderi said.
A documentary crew will be joining the tour in Clarenville to film the final three performances. Award-winning director Amar Wala (The Secret Trial 5) plans to use the footage in a documentary inspired by Baskanderi’s Facebook article.
The article describes a number of instances where Baskanderi felt encouraged to embrace his Islamic background, both as a child in Clarenville and a university student in St. John’s.
He recalls his primary school teachers giving him the option of studying the Quran in Bible Study class, he notes this as moment where he might have been pressured to assimilate but instead was given permission to explore his own faith more fully.
Baskanderi went on to study engineering at Memorial University, where he says he continued to feel supported in practicing Islam. His university friends would celebrate with him when he broke fast after Ramadan, and he jokes that people would often pay for his ginger ale at the bar as opposed to urging him to drink.
“I was a Pakistani-Canadian-Muslim-Newfoundlander and people really empowered all of the nuances of my identity,” Baskanderi said. “I got to fully understand Islam growing up, and the Newfoundlanders around me empowered that whether I was fasting for Ramadan or reading Quran I was always accepted for doing those things and people actually appreciated it.”
While Baskanderi wasn’t expecting the article to receive so much attention, he is thrilled to have the opportunity to share his story more widely through his tour and the documentary. He hopes Salaam B’y will help people recognize that genuinely celebrating diversity builds stronger communities.
“I’m talking about looking at people’s uniqueness and empowering it and amplifying it in a way that makes you appreciate how people’s intricacies can make the community better,” Baskanderi said.
“A community doesn’t have to be one singular thing, it can be very diverse and that’s actually beneficial to the community. That’s something I’ve seen throughout my life.”