“My parents decided to make a future for us, to give us a better chance (by moving to Canada).”
Since moving to Airdrie 12 years ago, Farah Malik and her family have seen this city grow tremendously – and they’ve come to feel more welcomed than ever.
But coming to Canada took a bit of adjustment at first.
“My family moved [to Canada] from Dubai in 1999,” Malik says. “We came to Ottawa and then we came to Calgary. It was a bit of a shock for a number of things. We had to take care of food – being Muslim, we don’t eat pork, so that was our main issue. At that time, only in the northeast [of Calgary] did they have a few halal shops.”
Her family also had to get used to the fact Calgary was not a 24-7 city like Dubai. “Dubai, even if you wanted to go out at midnight, you could find something to do,” says Malik. “The culture [in Canada] was different, the people were different and getting to know them and merging into this community was a transition.”
But she and her family enjoyed being able to follow their beliefs and culture more freely in Canada, Malik says, adding that in her parents’ native Pakistan, members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community faced persecution. “My parents decided to make a future for us, to give us a better chance (by moving to Canada),” she says.
Malik’s parents wanted to live in a quieter neighbourhood, so in 2003 they settled in the then-brand-new Canals neighbourhood of Airdrie. “At that time, Airdrie was a baby and they loved it … there were [virtually] no houses out here,” she says. “There were amazing people who were welcoming and treated us as their own, and we merged into their community – ‘community’ as in their neighbourhood community. And we saw everything grow in front of our eyes in Airdrie.”
Malik went on to get married in 2006 and today lives with her husband, Saif, and two young sons Ardmanish, 8, and Arshman, 4, in a home not far from her parents’ place. “My mom’s favourite thing is that I’m so close – yet I’m not in her house,” Farah says.
When not working – Farah is at a local bank, while Saif (who came to Canada in 2005) currently drives a taxi while training to be a cabinetmaker – the Maliks keep their religion and traditions alive by being active in the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, often helping to spread information about their sect of Islam and promoting symposiums where representatives of different religions get together to discuss faith-related issues.
“Our community is working very hard to clear misconceptions,” Farah says. “We don’t want to be stereotyped.”
Farah can also be found demonstrating her nail-painting skills at such locations as the Santa Claus Market and Airdrie Festival of Lights – “The kids love it,” she says – and once both her children are going to school full time, she hopes to turn this hobby into a home-based business.
Airdrie has grown tremendously since 2003, and Farah says that while she still needs to head into northeast Calgary for halal, pretty much everything else is at her fingertips.
“It is like a house of wonders that has everything you desire in it,” she says. “We have Genesis Place, the fast food chains, restaurants … Genesis Place has everything from skating to swimming to playing basketball and there’s the new skate park at Chinook Winds Park.”
A highlight for her family this summer was going to see the Canada Day fireworks at Chinook Winds. “My kids just had a blast!” Farah says.
“I love Airdrie – the people are amazing!” she adds. “The schools here are amazing. All we need is a university or a college here and we’d be set.”