Photos by Razan Samara

Salma Hindy likes to think that she was at her peak creativity and performance level while making her childhood friends laugh. Lunch times at the Islamic elementary and secondary schools she attended turned into a comedy sketch hour filled with extravagant storytelling and ridiculous imitations of her teachers and friends.

The up-and-coming comedian recently returned from the 12 city Super Muslim Comedy Tour in the United Kingdom, and finished in second place in the Toronto Comedy Brawl competition against over 400 comedians. Hindy also spent her autumn performing at comedy festivals in Boston, Dallas, Chicago and New York.

As Hindy prepares to open for American comedian and actor Ken Jeong on Jan. 11 for the Life After Mac performance on campus, it’s fair to say storytelling and making people laugh have followed her into adulthood.

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Despite growing up being the funniest person in the room and even getting encouragement from Zarqa Nawaz, creator of CBC’s popular sitcom Little Mosque on the Prairie, Hindy held back on making a move into the comedy industry as she came to grips with how her family and community would react.

Growing up in a conservative Muslim household meant that her parents have a rigid understanding of what comedy and performance is, which made it difficult for them to understand what their daughter wanted to pursue.

While their ideas of comedy were often tainted with negative connotations and misconceptions, Hindy wanted to show her family and Muslim community that clean comedy can be approached in a way that is mindful of the values and boundaries she has set for herself. Her career, identity and spirituality are part of her own personal journey and comedy just so happens to play an important part as well.   

Despite her parents’ reluctance to attend her shows, Hindy’s mother found herself attending an event her daughter just so happened to be performing at for International Women’s Day this past March. It may have been seeing her daughter perform stand-up for the first time, the fact that Hindy removed all her parent jokes from her set, or the constant boasting on part of her mother’s friends, but the laughter seemed to ease her concerns.

The comedy industry was in for a shock too. Most audiences aren’t used to seeing a visibly Muslim woman take center stage at a comedy bar. Hindy will skip out on free drink tickets and get ecstatic at the availability of halal food at her events, but the industry is ready to embrace her and the diversity she brings.    

I fit in pretty well as someone who doesn't fit in, if that makes any sense. They want to see people with different identities… different stories and different perspectives. Somebody who can teach them something that they didn't know before while obviously still being entertaining and funny,” explained Hindy.

While Hindy’s faith and stereotypes around her identity do seep into her act, she isn’t explicitly written for a Muslim audience. Her witty remarks and hilarious stories about her life, which are all based on true events, humanize her as a Muslim Canadian; an identity that is often informed by the media rather than real life interactions.

Comedy became a breakthrough for fostering understanding. From jokes about struggling to have a crush reciprocate feelings to witnessing anti-Muslim protestors outside of a mosque and thinking ‘wow, these people go to the mosque more than me, like damn I wish I had your consistency’, Hindy utilizes storytelling to reach out to her audience and build a relationship.  

“[I]t doesn't even necessarily have to be specifically or explicitly about Muslim issues or Muslim struggles, obviously those are really enlightening and they're great informational pieces for the audience, but even just you ranting about the same thing that somebody else would rant about which is just very mundane, just shows how relatable you are and how much of a connection that we all have,” explained Hindy.

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Hindy has become a familiar face in the Toronto comedy scene. She was sought out for her talent but her hard work and reputation among producers keeps her busy performing an average of two shows a week. Impressively, that’s only about 10 per cent of what she spends her days doing.

Hindy completed her bachelor of engineering at McMaster and a masters in clinical engineering at the University of Toronto. She recently started her first full time job as a biomedical research engineer at Centre for Addiction and Mental Health so it’s only a matter of time before this milestone in her life inspires the newest additions to her comedy set.  

In conversation, Hindy can’t help crack a joke or two — or every five minutes— often followed by a ‘you know what I’m saying?’ and her contagious laughter. Comedy is her superpower, she uses it to spread awareness, break down stereotypes and share herself unapologetically with the world.

 

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McMaster frequently plays host to a number of incredibly talented speakers, and this was shown on March 8 when Human Rights and Equity Services welcomed the multi-hyphenated activist speaker Kim Crosby to McMaster, in what proved to be several hours of engaging with some difficult but crucial topics.

Crosby refers to herself as a “daughter of the diaspora.” Her multi-hyphenated identity comes not only from her heritage – she is Arawak, West African, Indian, and Dutch – but also from her professional titles as an artist, activist, consultant, facilitator, and educator.

Crosby facilitated a workshop on anti-racism and later delivered a keynote address in Convocation Hall, summarizing the workshop content and discussing the power of women.

The topics covered included rape, masculinity, the dismantling of debilitating institutions, and solidarity amongst the marginalized. She reminded the audience of the importance of undoing internalized behaviours that arise from years of problematic ideologies.

Crosby's aim was to draw attention to the various ways that oppression can arise, and how multiple oppressions come together to create a more inclusive picture of any one individual.

A key topic touched on during the workshop was the dismissal of activist efforts within certain spaces, particularly academic spheres. The university, Crosby rightfully pointed out, is an institution that often operates on us without our consent.

She was quick to remind her audience, however, that change is more than possible.

In her own words, these systems, including schools and financial institutions, for example,  were created, but as members of these systems have the ability to un-create them. She illustrated this by explaining, for instance, that we undo capitalism every day in the gestures we perform for others out of good will.

“You don't give your friend a bill, asking them to pay for what you did for them, do you?” Crosby asked her chuckling audience.

The breadth of topics and their various nuances cannot possibly be covered in one sitting, and that was most visible when Crosby seemed to run out of breath or looked as if she had more to say but couldn’t due to time constraints.

While this workshop along with others like it are not the be-all-end-all of activist discourses, they provide the necessary catalyst for real changes to occur on campuses nation-wide, including and especially McMaster.

After all, difference begins with education and what better place to begin our education than on campus?

Devra Charney/ The Silhouette

On Friday March 8, the global community celebrated International Women’s Day. The 2013 theme focused on promoting gender equality in a modern progressive world.

On campus, McMaster hosted multidisciplinary activist and educator Kim Crosby. Her workshop on anti-racism as well as her keynote address were much-anticipated events for a number of students and community members.

Emilee Guevara, member of Feminist Alliance McMaster (FAM), was pleased to see McMaster bring Crosby and the values that she represents to campus, hoping for similar speakers in the future.

“This event was awesome to have Kim here speaking. International Women’s Day is to talk about women, but it’s to talk about issues that affect all women, so that’s where her theme of intersectionality is really important… I hope that events like this can continue every year and in every space, not just on specific days.”

FAM endeavours to make sure campus remains accessible throughout the year for students looking to connect and align with other feminists in a safe environment. Guevara added that FAM’s activism also extends off campus to related community events where members can meet up and attend as a group.

“Women and men have joined together to go to certain events, like Take Back the Night, like the SlutWalk, celebrate International Women’s Day… hopefully making connections for women who have felt either silenced, objectified, sexualized, who have experienced rape and harassment and sexual assault – realities in the lives of women everywhere.”

And in an effort to address the issue of violence against women in a McMaster context, The Sexual Assault Centre of Hamilton & Area (SACHA) and YWCA Hamilton have partnered together for the It’s Time to End Violence Against Women on Campus project funded by Status of Women Canada.

Project coordinator and Mac alum Alicia Ali said that McMaster currently lacks specific guidelines on dealing with violence against women on campus.

“The project is split into two phases – information gathering and outcome,” she explained. “The information-gathering phase includes surveys and focus groups to identify current gaps, priorities, resources, opportunities, and strengths around the issue of violence against women on campus.”

Students are invited to attend sessions as part of a Safety Audit scheduled for March 18and 19 so that they can provide feedback on safety around campus. A campus walk-about will also allow students to point out specific problem areas and voice their concerns about unsafe parts of campus after dark.

“The second phase of the project includes a campus wide awareness campaign, events on campus, and a campus community protocol in how the university responds to instances of violence against women,” said Ali.

“We hope to explore the possibility of introducing a gender-based analysis to all policy development at the university.”

The project coordinators and advisory committee will provide the University with a list of recommendations after a two-year period on how to increase safety for women as well as involve the campus community in a more informed approach to dealing with the culture of violence against women.

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