Islamophobia: Tackling by Being Good Neighbors, Dr.Emdad Khan, Ottawa
These days we hear and feel Islamophobia in real life as well as print and social media; Muslims are facing acceptance issues. In general human being fear unknown things, situation and environment. To many persons, Islam and Muslims are unknown entity; although Muslims discovered Algebra, Medicine and foundation of science when Europe was dark.
How as Muslims, we can cope with it and ultimately resolve the issue in a peaceful and friendly way. By enacting a law it can be partially deterred but cannot be resolved. Its solution is in the hands of the Muslims; to be aware and resolve though their day to day life interaction with the main stream Canadian society. As community organizations, as neighbors, as coworkers and as parents of school going kids, we can interact and volunteer in society. Once, by interaction, we show that Muslims are like any other Canadians of any faith or no faith; we have families, we do shopping, work in government, private sectors or run business. Our kids go to the public schools and participate in sports.
World has 1.2 Billion Muslims in 100 countries and has a rich history of civilization. In Ottawa alone, we have 150,000 Muslims (10%) out of a population of 1.5 Million. As neighbor, in our own locality, by interacting with coworkers in work place, and interacting with teachers and students of our kids schools, we can show examples of day to day life of a Muslim. This way, our neighbors will find as Muslims, we are basically same as other Canadians.
As community organization, SNMC, (www.SNMC.ca) in Nepean, does outreach activities; interact with city councilors, mayor, provincial and federal elected representatives. Also it does interfaith dialogue with Churches and Synagogues. SNMC, for the last 10 years, provided each high school of Nepean, 2 scholarships of $600 each, 4 scholarships of $800 to Algonquin College and 5 scholarships of $1,000 to Carleton University and another 5 scholarships to Ottawa University. SNMC also has 20 community gardens and half of them are run by non-Muslims. French Public Board runs 3 French classes at snmc for the last 2 years and SNMC runs every Saturday Languages and Muslim culture courses at Michaelle Jean Elementary school, located next to SNMC building. In Ramadan, SNMC holds peace dinner for its neighbors and another organization hosts harmony Iftar for non-Muslims, to display peaceful nature of islam during long fasting month. In 2011 when SNMC applied to build a masjid and community center at Woodroffe Ave, no one in the city of Ottawa or Barrhaven area put any objections, except in 2009 when SNMC put a new site sign some vendals try to burn the sign board. In general community, schools, businesses in Barrhaven feel SNMC is a good welcoming instituion.
UMO-OG (United Muslim Organizations, Ottawa – Gatineau), 12 Muslim community organizations, over the years provided over $50,000 to CHEO, over $65,000 to Fort McMurray via Red Cross during 2016 summer Forest Fire, and over $30,000 in 2016 to Ottawa Public school board to provide support to needy students for sports activities. UMO-OG in February 2016 gave reception to 20 newly elected Federal MPs in Ottawa – Gatineau at Parliament Hill attended by over 100 Muslim community leaders and Imams from 12 Muslim organizations. In turn, during Ramadan in June 2016, six Federal ministers and 20 MPs of Canadian Parliament hosted an Iftar reception to 600 Muslim community leaders from all over Canada and 300 of them were from Ottawa Gatineau. These activities show Ottawa Muslim community is part of Canada’s multi faith, multi ethnic diverse fabric and they will stay here for generations after generations as one of the vibrant, peaceful and contributing community.
We, in south Nepean, in our neighborhood, every Ramadan during Eid Al-Fitr and during Abraham Festival of Sacrifice, Eid Al-Adha, give food, fruits and fresh meat to our neighbors and also distribute sweets at our work place.
Let us briefly give few examples, how Islam in the Quran and tradition of the Messenger of God, strongly advises Muslims to be friendly, participative and helful neighbors.
Duty to God, Parents, Relatives, Orphans, Needy and Neighbors: God, the Exalted stated in his Book, “Worship one God and join none with Him (in worship); and do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, the needy, the neighbor who is near of kin, the neighbor who is a stranger, the companion by your side, the traveler, and those of your subordinates. (4:36) Al-Nisa. So if we believe in our Creator God, He commanded us to do good to our neighbors.
Best Companion and best Neighbor: Messenger of God (PBUH) said, “The best of companions with God is the one who is best to his companions, and the best of neighbors to God is the one who is the best of them to his neighbor”. Nice treatment to neighbor is the best means to attain a distinctive place with God
Neighbor Must feel Safe and Will not Enter Paradise: The Prophet (PBUH) said, “By God, he is not a believer! By God, he is not a believer! By God, he is not a believer.” It was asked, “Who is that, O Messenger of God?” He said, “One whose neighbor does not feel safe from his evil. If anyone ill-treats a neighbor, he looses his faith and will not be able to enter paradise. Let us better treat our neighbors with respect. Hurting or troubling a neighbor is such a serious offence that it causes God’s Wrath, and thus punishment in Hell fire.
Gift to a Neighbor: Messenger of God (PBUH) said, “O Muslim women! No one of you should consider insignificant (a gift) to give to her neighbor even if it is (a gift of) the trotters of a sheep”. Neighbors should present gifts to each other. Even his humble gift, provided it is presented with sincerity, will find acceptance with God.
Kindness to Neighbors: Messenger of God (PBUH) said, “Gabriel kept recommending treating neighbors with kindness until I thought he would assign a share of inheritance”. This illustrates the importance of nice treatment to neighbors.
Sharing Food with Neighbor: Messenger of God (PBUH) commanded me thus, “O Abu Dharr! Whenever you prepare a broth, put plenty of water in it, and give some of it to your neighbors”. This shows, a Muslim is encouraged to establish good relations with his neighbor and share foods with love. If a person is not in a position to do more, he should at least add some water in the broth he cooks for his own food and send a portion of it to his deserving neighbor.
|Six general rights of Neighbors, Muslim or not Muslim.
– Greet him when you see him, Let the peace, mercy and blessing of God be upon you. For non-Muslim, say, Good Day
– Respond , accept and fulfill his invitation
– Offer him the best advice you have, if sought.
– Say” May God be merciful to you, if one sneezes before you, for non-Muslim say, Have a nice day
– Pay him a visit if he gets sick, and it applicable for any neighbor, Muhammad (PBUH) visited a sick Jewish boy
– Follow his funeral to his final place of rest (burial). Muhammed (PBUH), performed funeral prayer for a Christian King and honored a funeral procession for a Jewish person
We can conclude, if we Muslims, to our neighbor or work worker, regularly say let the peace, mercy and blessing of God be with you and extend our hand with a smiling face and exchange gift and join with them in their festival and sickness, we will build harmony in society. A real opportunity to neighbors and coworkers to know Muslims and Islam in action. The fear of unknown will disappear. This will establish peace in our neighborhood. Our neighbor will be happy to see a Muslim person or family as his/her neighbor. What a peaceful way to tackle Islamophobia.