CAIRO - A leading council for Canadian Muslims are planning to hold a national interfaith dialogue with Christian and Jewish community leaders to discuss the role of religion as well as the impact of international events on faith communities in their country.
We have been planning this for a long time, Calgary Imam Syed Soharwardy told Calgary Herald.
I have been involved in interfaith dialogue right up to 9/11. I have done almost 136 interfaith dialogues across the country, but recent opinion polls about the opinion of Muslims in Canada have been about 56 to 57 per cent negative.
This is what motivated me to reach out again to those people who we engaged in the interfaith dialogue in the past, but maybe it's not enough to have a good understanding of what Islam is all about and what is our faith and where we stand.
The new dialogue, planned by the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada next July, would take place in all major cities in the North American country.
These cities include Montreal, Toronto, Mississauga, Halifax, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Surrey and Vancouver.
Trying to find a common ground with other faiths, the dialogue would discuss religious and secular fundamentalism and extremism in Canada; the role of religion in Canadian society and the impact of international events on faith communities and their relationships in Canada.
The dialogue would also discuss the misinterpretation of Shari`ah law as well as the values shared by the three Abrahamic faiths.
We are in communication with several Christian and Jewish organizations across the country and finalizing the dates of these meetings, Soharwardy said.
Muslims make around 1.9 percent of Canada's 32.8 million population, and Islam is the number one non-Christian faith in the country.
A survey has showed the overwhelming majority of Muslims are proud to be Canadian.
Hosting the interfaith dialogue, Canadian Muslims were keen on correcting misconceptions about their faith and Islamic Shari`ah law.
There are e-mails that I have been receiving for over several years now that people think that Islam has a different value system than Jewish and Christian value systems, said Soharwardy.
We know for sure that Islam does not have any different value system. Yes, we have a belief that's different, but not the values are different social and moral and spiritual values.
This dialogue, Soharwardy added, would launch an urgent interaction with the country's religions to reach a mutual understanding on the values they share.
Why don't we spend more time on talking to Christians and Jews and discussing with them where we stand together and knowing where are the differences and knowing that we have common elements, he said.
The bottom line is to answer their questions and address their concerns and develop a strategy or plan to see how we can remove these understandings and how we can improve these relationships.
The interfaith events would also help correct misconceptions about Muslims which resulted in a sharp increase in anti-Muslim views among Canadians.
Last March 2012, a new survey by the Association for Canadian Studies and the Canadian Race Relations Foundation found that more than half of Canadians distrust Muslims, the lowest level of trustworthiness of religious groups in the country.
Another recent survey by the Canadian Studies (ACS) found that the Muslim minority in Canada is still facing negative perceptions a decade after the 9/11.
This is a big project, Soharwardy said.
We are trying to work with the Jewish and Christian community across the country.