The Many Meanings of Imam
A written portrait of one of Brantford’s faith and community leaders.
Maichina Veri, March 13, 2023 // Brantford, Ontario Imam Abu Noman Tarek in discussion with BTOWN. Photo credit Geoff Fitzgerald.
You might have already met Imam Abu Noman Tarek, or at least heard about him, through one of his many roles in our community. Imam Tarek is a trained counsellor, public and motivational speaker, consultant, part-time teacher, and humanitarian worker both in Canada and around the globe. He received the YMCA Peace Medal in 2022, and the Learn, Lead and Inspire award from the Grand Erie District School Board in 2023. From 2013 to early 2023, he worked as the faith leader at the Brantford mosque. He continues to work as an imam in Mississauga, but still lives and contributes in Brantford as well. His role as an imam includes many layers such as being an employee of a mosque, a spiritual leader, a worker, and a community leader for all. He is busy, with many commitments and undertakings, but he says first and foremost he is a family man.
Imam Tarek has achieved much in his time, though he admits there have been some struggles. While there are those who can find challenges to be demotivating, Imam Tarek recognizes that growth includes pain, and that part of the process of achievement is embracing that pain. He looks to his faith, family, friends and the fruits of his works when facing difficulties. Referencing a poem he wrote when he was younger, Imam Tarek says, “The deeper night is, the closer morning is.”
At this time, Imam Tarek is working on several projects, some of which include establishing an all-encompassing Muslim council of Brantford-Brant as well as an interfaith council. Imam Tarek has also been an integral part of working with the Grand Erie District School Board implementing the Diversity and Inclusion award for students graduating from grades eight and 12. In addition to this, he has been doing a lot of work surrounding mental health with a focus on emotional health and healing. He points out that places carry a first aid kit for physical ailments, whereas emotional first aid is lacking – but it’s just as important.
Islamic Centre of Brantford. Web photos.
When asked, “What do you think sets you apart from other community leaders?” Imam Tarek replies, “I’m just like them.” He goes on to explain that though community leaders may take different paths, all share a similar vision and a common ground. Though definitely respectful of differences, Imam Tarek recognizes that sometimes a focus on them can cause division. He instead centres his attention on community leaders as the “pieces of peace” – selfless people who serve, inspire and motivate the community.
His desire to help people comes from Imam Tarek’s family and faith. He recalls stories from his youth of his father aiding his own community, calling him “strikingly helpful.” Imam Tarek also draws inspiration from “anyone doing something good.” He hopes that the legacy he leaves behind is one where he is known for benefiting others in both difficult and good times. “The day you leave, will you be missed?” asks the imam, “Or will people be relieved?”
Imam Abu Noman Tarek in photos. Photo credit Geoff Fitzgerald.
Initially coming to Brantford for work, Imam Tarek has made a home in the community with his wife and two daughters. “I love Brantford,” he says with emotion, admitting this message causes butterflies in his stomach. He has positive memories of the Brantford mosque and the community surrounding it, both followers and non-followers alike. Though there has been “some discomfort” – referring to graffiti on the mosque – Imam Tarek says those were only a few individuals who caused harm, and while small cracks can be dangerous, the community of Brantford has always been supportive of the mosque as a whole. He acknowledges the reality that people can misunderstand things, but these misunderstandings can be addressed and fixed by reaching out with love, services, education and understanding.
In effort to educate and understand, here are some things Imam Tarek would like you to know about the Muslim community in Brantford: Muslims have been in Brantford helping build the city and the community since 1895, the Muslim community has always tried its best to be a beneficial and integral part of Brantford – not separate, and Muslims add diversity to the community. This needs to be understood and appreciated. In terms of Islam, Imam Tarek stresses that this religion is a “peaceful and rational religion,” that the religion does not promote or permit any form of extremism, terrorism or harm and, if you truly want to understand Islam, to talk to an imam or your Muslim neighbour in order to learn from direct sources.
Humble and wise, Imam Tarek is a trusted and valued leader who stands for peace and justice for all. He brings many positive ideas forward for our city and acts on them to achieve a healthier and stronger community both locally and abroad. As Imam Tarek said he learned when he was a student, “The one who has the idea has to implement it.” What’s your idea for a better Brantford?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Maichina Veri is a writer based in Brantford, Ontario. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing from Montreal’s Concordia University and has a background in Journalism – Print from Niagara College.
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER
Geoff Fitzgerald is an award winning freelance photographer, second season beekeeper, passionate pet dad to an Olde English Bulldogge, two cats and two rats. With an incredible drive and desire for compelling stories and intimate portraits he focuses his skills mainly on the editorial and advertising/commercial world of photography.