RAVES & RANTS: Learning more about fellow Canadians

It’s always great to learn more about fellow Canadians. The discussion group from the Better Living Centre was visited by a local cleric who presented the group members with the opportunity of learning a lot and clarify some misconceptions Canadian have about his faith.

The “Issues in the Media” discussion group was fortunate to be visited by a local cleric, Imam Mufti Abdul Mannan Mullah from the Masjid Usman mosque/Islamic Center in Pickering.

Lynne Parker, Susan Angelini, Joanne Culligan,Councillor Shaheen Butt, Mary Finlayson, Imam Abdul Mannan Mulla, Audrey Seaton, Shirley Lucas, Maimie Shearer, John Parker, Jean O’Bright

Recent news headlines have highlighted asylum seekers leaving the USA and entering Canada at unguarded border crossings. These are people seeking refuge from the arguable tyranny developing south of the border. The discussion group has also been discussing Canadian news reports about hate crimes and growing Islamophobia.

Our discussions had more questions than answers. Why were Muslims being targeted? Why were mosques being vandalized? Worse, why were Muslims attacked even as they assembled to pray at a Quebec mosque?

It was time to dig into the reasons behind the xenophobia and racism.

First, I started to read books about Islam, one of the very best was written by Haroon Siddiqui, a Toronto Star journalist. “Being Muslim” turned out to be a very enlightening book with objective detailing of the Muslim world, its history, its society, culture and of course, it as a religion. The book is excellent, a quick read but entertaining as much as it is educational.

Then I began reading two other books, one of which was the Qur’an. Here too I discovered interesting things. This book, a book of revelations and interpretations inspired and compiled by the final Prophet, Muhammad is of moderate length written in a poetic style. Interestingly, the book is known to be memorized by many of the faithful, not so much because it is recited daily in their prayers, but because of the rhythmic pattern of its verses. It would do the best modern day rapper proud as it ebbs and flows in poetic rhyme. Beautiful.

Finally, I felt it was crucial to go to an expert if you wanted to learn about Muslims. Who better than an imam at a local mosque. I wondered if an imam would consider speaking to our discussion group. However, as I am an older person who sometimes struggles trying to understand a person who speaks with an accent, I felt it to be important that I find an imam who spoke English in a way to which our whole group was accustomed. I felt the material itself would be challenging enough to understand, set aside difficulties with accents. The imam I found was 2 years old when he immigrated and has lived in Toronto for 29 years since. His English is ‘pure,’ but adding icing to the delightful cake, his professionalism, education and positive attitude shine through like a beacon of welcome, if not to his faith, for sure to his culture.

Moderator Richard with Imam Abdul Mannan Mulla and Councillor Shaheen Butt, City of Pickering

The Imam was accompanied by Shaheen Butt, Councillor from the City of Pickering, where I live. Shaheen is a Muslim from Turkey, raised in England and living in Canada for many decades. He has been a councillor serving the municipality for about a year now. He proudly announces he has learned all that he knows from a very beloved teacher of whom he is most proud, his 98 year old mother.

The Imam spent nearly two hours with the discussion group explaining the Muslim world, examining the doctrines of Islam and bringing many issues into clearer perspective. It was an enlightening talk which all of us to better understand these Canadians and their lives here.

There was seriousness when Shaheen talked about the 9/11 controversy, trepidation when we asked questions about Isis, Bin Laden and Bashar Al-assad, and even some laughter when the Imam told us about how on his days off, he doffs his clerical apparel in favour of jeans and boots.

In really was a great opportunity to learn more about Muslims and Islam. I am confident the visiting guests were appreciated by everyone.

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