Attending twelve to thirteen different schools, it was early on that Abubakar Khan learned the art of making friends. He tells me he has always been a big people person:

“I went to so many different schools. I was used to having conversations with people that looked different than me, that had different beliefs.”

I was not surprised to hear this. When I first met Abubakar Khan, it was at the Faith In Canada 150 Millennial Summit last summer. At the summit, he was someone who gave us the gift of laughter―a much needed laughter considering our conversations were, at times, heavy. He also gave us the gift of authentic conversationand that is not usual.

He stood up and started:

“…I am Abubakar Khan. I am a brown, Muslim kid with a beard and I share a name with ISIS’s top leader at the moment. …I do not have it going so well for me…”

The summit delegates erupted in laughter. He continued with his point, illustrating beautifully, that each and every day, we have the option of choosing love over fear, and that today, we were fortunate to have chosen love. Although for some, he might be the epitome of what they choose to fear, here he was having a good laugh about what makes him fearful, with a room brimming with diverse people.

Love over fear. This is his message. And it radiates in the podcast he hosts, called The Chosen Khan. Abubakar started The Chosen Khan to connect different perspectives from around the world. A series of events made him realize just how important it was for people of “different worlds” to engage in dialogue with one another. 

Alone on campus during Ramadan, Abubakar felt for other Muslim kids who were opening their fasts on their own. Raising funds and striking a deal with a halal restaurant on campus, he was able to bring Muslim students together for iftars. During one iftar, a security guard sat down. The security guard had never spoken to a Muslim before, and had fears about Muslims. Abubakar explains, “…he had all these negative things in his mind…,” and continues, “…and he hung out with us and ate with us, and he started coming a lot more.” This was a revelation for Abubakaralthough he grew up having conversations with people who looked different than him and who had different beliefs, this was not necessarily the norm for others.

During December 2016, Abubakar and his friends worked together to turn a mosque in Vancouver into a temporary homeless shelter. After opening up the mosque to Vancouver’s homeless people, the youth sat with one another, in conversation. Abubakar shares, “…it was all these young people from different backgrounds and different religions…,” and Abubakar had a heartfelt appreciation for that moment:

“…and I was like, ‘You know what? The conversations that we are having are incredibly beautiful―the heart-to-heart conversations, just trying to figure out life, whatever it may beand we are having them in a mosque.’”    

More and more, Abubakar noticed a need for dialogue between people of different beliefs. If we do not speak to one another, how will we let go of our prejudices?   

Abubakar tells me that the straw that broke the camel’s back was the attack on the Québec mosque in January 2017. For Abubakar, it was then more than ever that we needed all kinds of people conversing with one another. Following the attack, Abubakar and his friends organized a rally against Islamophobia, and Abubakar was adamant on having diverse youth speak at the rally.

“…These were Muslims that were killed, but when Muslims are being attacked, we should show…, ‘Look, we are being persecuted, but it’s not [only] about us. We are a collective humanity.’ …These were human beings that were killed at the masjidat a place of worshipand I want to hear a young black person, the young Jewish kid, the young Christian kid and their feelings towards it [along with] the Muslims. To unite all of us.” Abubakar Khan                 

Because of these initiatives, a lot of people suggested that Abubakar should start a podcast. He tells me he has had a coffee with someone every single day for the last two years:    

“It’s all about intention. I sit with someone and we have a conversationan open conversationand they get to meet a Muslim person. …I was getting perspectives [from] someone [who] had been sexually abused [and] someone [who] had problems with alcohol.”  

Abubakar felt such conversations shouldn’t be swept under the rug, and he created The Chosen Khan. The people he speaks to can choose to come onto the show and share their stories.

“…What we are taught [is] Don’t open up. Keep your experiences to yourself. Don’t tell anybody what you’ve gone through. When you talk about what you have [gone] through and you are being vulnerable, then other people that are going through it [can say], ‘Okay, wait. Maybe I’m not alone. …These thoughts that I have been having in my head, maybe it’s not as crazy after all.’” Abubakar Khan   

I wonder how Abubakar is able to get stories out of people. Then, somewhere in our conversation, he mentions, “Everyone that I have been having a conversation with has such an incredible story. …Sometimes, all you have to do is ask the right questions and, then, just listen.”        

He talks about a time when he may not have been listening well enough:

“Look at all these …protests. It’s two sides yelling at each other. No one is ever listening. I did a bunch of protests and I was like, ‘Why don’t I listen to people [who] don’t think like me?’ I want to get totally different perspectives. Just talk to them. We protest here in Canada for three to four hours and then we go home. We post a selfie and say, ‘Yeah! I did so much!’ But, no man, you went there and you used some time and energy, but you didn’t change yourself. Islamically, it’s about introspection. The greater jihad is introspectionworking on yourself. But, we are so quick to say, ‘I’ve got to change the world,’ rather than, ‘I’ve got to change myself.’ If you want to stop people from hating, stop hating as well.”

After our conversation, I am moved and more learned, and when Abubakar learns I am writing about him as a leader, he insists he is nothing of the sort. Perhaps this is what it is about good leaders. They are not assuming that role because they are simply being themselves.    

Love over fear is the message I am left with after our conversation.

“For me, ummah* [means] we are togethereveryone in the land. That’s what ummah is. …I have some Chinese neighbours, I have some Jewish neighbours, I have some white neighbours. That’s my neighbourhood. That’s my community.” Abubakar Khan   

If you want more Khanversations, keep up with them at:  

https://www.facebook.com/Thechosenkhan/ and http://thechosenkhan.com/

*Ummah = an Arabic word meaning “community”  

About The Author

Aisha Hyder
Community Relations Coordinator

Joined MY Voice as a writer in grade 9, now a second year student at WesternU who aspires to work in mental health care. Finds meaning in painting, collecting quotes and gazing at the moon. Is unapologetically Muslim

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