The Ummah Mosque and Community Centre held a sermon on Friday to discuss Islamophobia and how some people automatically connect Islam to terrorism.
The sermon came on the heels of recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Mali.
Imam Abdelkader Tayebi organized the sermon and said he wants others to look at Islam objectively.
“All their [ISIS] actions are opposite to what Islam teaches,” said Tayebi. “Even the prophet of Islam tells us this is a group that is entirely deviant.”
Burmese immigrant Aung Sanmyint said the Paris attacks represent what people think Islam is all about.
“When 9/11 happened, it pretty much destroyed the name of the Muslim community,” he said. “It was a small group of people, but they impacted the whole religion itself.”
Islamophobia rears its head
Tayebi told a story about a friend of his wife in Ontario. She went to a mall and received Islamophobic slurs from other shoppers in the aftermath of the Paris attacks. He said he’s not surprised by these reactions, but it’s a matter of concern.
Syrian immigrant Mohamed Masalmeh said the media plays a big part in perceptions of Muslims and Islam. He said refugees shouldn’t be victimized because those who carried out the attacks were criminals.
“These are criminals who used refugees [crisis] to do their work,” he said. “If you look at them, they are homegrown in Belgium and France. [Refugees] are only victims again of the same tragedy. They’re running away from those exact kind of people.”
Dalia El-Dib is a visiting scholar at Dalhousie University. She said she’s convinced there is Islamophobia in the media.
“Shootings happen everywhere,” she said. “Syrian citizens are killed everyday and no one points out those with the gun as having one religion or the other. The way they portray Muslims is unprofessional. They need to change their tone.”
Tayebi said Islamophobes should put their reasoning and mind at work.
“There are around 1.6 billion Muslims on this planet,” he said. “If every Muslim had the same mentality and goal as a few thousand terrorists, how would you see this world right now? It would be hell.”
Liberal MP Andy Fillmore was also at the sermon. He said he attended the sermon to show his solidarity with the Muslim community and to assure them the Canadian government is still committed to helping refugees.
“There are programs about outreach, increasing the number of immigrants, smoothing the roadblock for immigration, family reunification, more funding for refugees and re-introducing health care,” he said.
Fillmore said more details about the programs would come to light as time goes on and when parliament sits in December.
Awareness means hope
On Saturday, the Muslim community hosted Hijab Day, an event where people came and asked questions about the hijab and Islam in general.
“What we want to convey is that when you see a woman wearing a hijab, these are the reasons why she is wearing it,” said Tayebi. “It does not imply any connection whatsoever with terrorists.”
Sanmyint said he hoped people used Hijab Day as an opportunity to educate themselves.
“There’s a lot of misconceptions right now with how things are going and the ignorance is just adding fuel to the fire,” he said. “Just be open minded and let us show you the true meaning of Islam.”
Shot and edited by Kathleen Munro.
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Sarah Poko is currently a Masters of Journalism student at the University of King's College. Originally from Nigeria, Sarah has a keen interest...