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2021 Event:
Omar Mouallem
Praying for the WestA new father, searching for a place for himself and his family in the Muslim community he has resisted all his life, visits thirteen unique mosques across the West on a journey of self-discovery, each one revealing surprising history and a deepening sense of identity and belonging. Original, insightful, and beautifully written, Praying to the West reveals a secret history of home and belonging taking place in towns and cities across the Americas.

STARFest facts

Omar Mouallem is an award-winning writer and filmmaker. He’s reported on Muslim and Middle Eastern issues for The Guardian, The Ringer, and WIRED, coauthored the national bestseller Inside the Inferno: A Firefighter’s Story of the Brotherhood that Saved Fort McMurray, and directed The Last Baron, a documentary about the unlikely connection between the Lebanese civil war and a rogue burger chain. In 2020, he founded Pandemic University School of Writing. He lives in Edmonton with his family.

Mouallem grew up in a Muslim household, but always questioned the role of Islam in his life. As an adult, he used his journalism to criticize what he saw as the harms of organized religion. But none of that changed the way others saw him. Now, as a father, he fears the challenges his children will no doubt face as Western nations become increasingly nativist and hostile toward their heritage.

In Praying to the West, he explores the unknown history of Islam from California to Quebec, and from Brazil to Canada’s icy north.

Zain Velji is a political commentator who appears weekly on CBC radio and television and co-hosted the 2019 federal election for CTV. He hosts the award-winning podcast The Strategists, and the Zain Velji show on Newstalk 1010. Zain’s writing has been published by the Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, and National Post.