CAIRO Exchanging gifts and flowers, Muslims and Jews in the Canadian capital of Ottawa are coming together to promote inter-religious harmony and understanding and build friendship between followers of the two religions.
Imam Jebara and I want to make sure that we teach our young people, Cantor Daniel Benlolo, from Ottawa's Beth Shalom Synagogue, told Ottawa Citizen.If we teach young people how to interact with, understand and appreciate each other's communities, then we can hopefully build better communication and better understanding to live in harmony and in peace.
Imam Mohamed Jebara, founder of the Cordova Spiritual Education Center, led a Muslim delegation to visit the Beth Shalom Synagogue in Ottawa.
Smiling Muslims offered flowers and gifts to their new Jewish acquaintances to help promote understanding between the two communities.
Today we are going to understand that we are closer than you think, Benlolo said.
Born in Morocco, Arabic-speaking Benlolo invited Muslims to the synagogue and asked men and boys to place a kippa on their heads.
Benlolo explained that the kippa represents a separation between God and man.
It is to humble ourselves, to feel humility and to show that God is above and we are below, he said, joking that the kippa could also be used as a bald-spot cover.
Highlighting similarities between Judaism and Islam, Benlolo referred to the story of Abraham's sacrifice of his son Isma'il, which is found in both the Qur'an and the Torah.
Benlolo also presented the Muslim imam with a shofar, which he described as a symbol of Abraham's sacrifice to God, a menorah, a Kiddush cup and a book of the history of the Beth Shalom Synagogue.
In return, Jebara gave the Jewish leader a carved wooden Qur'an holder, a hand-sewn prayer rug from Syria, handmade calligraphy of the Muslim declaration of faith, books teaching Arabic from the Cordova Academy, three copies of the Noble Qur'ans and a long blue string of prayer beads.
Muslims hope that their visit to the synagogue would spread understanding between the Jewish and Muslim communities in Ottawa.
There are many interfaith dialogues, but they don't go any further than meeting and discussing issues, Jebara said.
Our intention is to go beyond that. We would like to establish friendships that are long term.
The Muslim imam said building friendships with followers of other faiths would lead to understanding, harmony and love between different religious groups.
Sharing a similar view, Awa Biop, a Muslim woman, said the event offered her and her daughter a unique opportunity to meet Jewish people.
We live in a mixed society, we have people from different backgrounds, race-wise and religion-wise, she said.
We want our children to grow up with that idea of being different and accepting other people who are different too.
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.