Respect, Tolerance and Inclusiveness, Emdad Khan
Let us all learn and respect, tolerance, and inclusiveness and accept the ethnic, cultural and religious diversity in a multicultural Canada. The integration of ethnic and religious minorities with larger immigrants and main stream Canadian society is an important social issue for Canadian mosaic.
Understanding and Respecting Others: Learning to live with and respecting other cultures and religions is important. Our society is filled with diverse cultures, ethnicity, languages and religious people of different background. We can see and feel it in class rooms, work places, at the shopping malls and just walking on the street in our neighbourhood.
Understanding Cultural Diversity: Other cultures may be different from ours and might go against our religious and moral values. But we are often uninformed and lacking information and may perceive as threating to us. We should learn, respect and celebrate the cultural, ethnic and religious diversity. Let us be open minded and tolerant to the diversity in culture, ethnicity and religious values. One of the scholars stated we have more in common with other cultures and religions then we think. We should be open to experience new things and volunteering with a group who are different from us. We have to be aware of our differences and be able to understand them and then ready to accept the difference.
Religious Freedom and Tolerance: In Canada everyone has guaranteed freedom to practice religion, build religious institutions and celebrate religious festivals. So it is important, we all be tolerant towards those whose religion or ethnicity or opinion differs from ours. We should not oppose or discriminate other religious or ethnic minorities. We may not agree with their practices but we should be tolerant and inclusive. We have some Muslim community leaders are excited to do interfaith dialogue with Hindus, Christians and Jews but not with Shia Muslims. Inter faith dialogue is a right thing to do. But it should also include Shia Muslim community. Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance but in practice some of us, do opposite in our behaviour and real life.
Overcoming Islamophobia: Overwhelming majority of Canadians are tolerant to Muslims and their practices. However, still a vocal minority of Canadians openly or subtly express hatred, discrimination against Muslims or other religious or ethnic minorities. Instead of feeling victims, as Muslims, we can do some positive proactive actions to cope with this. Muslims have two important events: Ramadan and Abraham Festival of sacrifice to connect with main stream Canadians in work place and social setting in neighborhood. During fasting month of Ramadan every one of us can provide ifter (evening breakfast) items to our workmates and neighbours. Also during the Abraham festival of sacrifice, Muslims can share a portion of meat with neighbours. We can also distribute sweet during two Eid festivals with our neighbours, work mats and school mates. We can actively participate and volunteer in our kids schools as parents.
Inclusiveness: We should create in the community an open and equitable environment based on ethnicity, culture, race, or religious understanding. To prosper and progress, we should encourage and embrace different ideas, perspectives, skills and experiences. The different perspective and ideas may facilitate in solving our family and community issues in new and innovative ways.
Open access to places of worship. During the time of prophet Muhammed (PBUH), a Bedouin came and urinated in the masjid. Many companions were upset but prophet (PBUH) allowed until he finished urinating. The messenger called him over and said to him, “Any kind of urine or filth is not suitable for the masjid. Instead they are only for remembrance of God, the prayer, and recitation of the Quran”.
With the above lessons in mind, we should open our masjids to main stream Canadians. In Ottawa, all Muslim organizations should participate with the city of Ottawa at the Door open Ottawa event, held during the 1st weekend of June, where everyone can come to visit the place of worship. Also all masjids should visit and speak with the students of the local area high schools to educate and answer their queries about Muslims and Islam.
Educating Kids: Our kids interact with children of differing ethnicities, religions, and cultures. Classrooms are diverse, reflecting the communities we live and work. Their friends, class mates, and sports teams are more diverse than those of parents. Education of kids in tolerance at home and school is important because it will bring more opportunities as well as develop harmony in real life, business, and community.
Activities to Understand Others: One of the easiest way to understand others is to open a dialogue about weather. Then, we may ask few questions about his/her interest, hobby, passion. Show interest that we are genuinely interested to know about their language, culture or faith. Also we may offer to volunteer with some of their activities and events, if acceptable to them.
Also in school or university or in neighbourhood or work place, we may try to have a friend from other faith or ethnicity or language. Learn their religion, language or taste their food.
The sun gives light to everyone, the rain rains everywhere to provide water. Let us all be mini sun and mini rain and be respectful, tolerant and inclusive in our dealing with diverse culture, ethnicity, religions or languages to establish peace and harmony in the community and society.
Note: Previously published in Canadian Dream magazine in June 2015