SHAFAQNA- A massive Islamic convention in Toronto this week will help to “inoculate” young Muslims against Islamophobia and throw a counterpunch against those who advocate for extremism.
“They have genuine leaders who are informed, who understand the modern world, who understand Islam and try to educate the youth about . . . what Islam stands for,” said lawyer Faisal Kutty, who teaches at Osgoode Hall and Valparaiso University. “It’s an extremely important event.”
Around 20,000 people are expected to attend the Reviving the Islamic Spirit conference at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The event started on Dec. 25 and runs to 27. It will feature speakers that include scholars, imams and authors.
Kutty predicted the event would draw criticism, noting the unfair assumption that “Muslims have to answer for the actions of the extremists.”
The theme of the 2015 event is “Alliance of Virtue,” which organizer Summayah Poonah said speaks to a need to “[form] cross cultural alliances in order to aid and facilitate social justice.”
“We need to be able to diversify our portfolio as a community and contribute in a significant way to other social platforms, like the issue of race or income inequality,” said Poonah.
Past conferences had focused on more basic needs, Poonah said: “a roof over your head and food on the table.”
Poonah said she is looking forward to hearing Linda Sarsour, the executive director of the Arab American Association of New York. The New York Times credited Sarsour with “[helping] to partly dismantle the New York Police Department’s program of spying on the city’s Muslims.”
The event also features a “grand bazaar,” and the convention’s website promotes a popular “matrimonial program” — a chance for attendees to meet possible future spouses.
An interfaith dialogue is planned for Saturday, featuring a cardinal, imam and pastor.
Justin Trudeau spoke at the 2012 convention. IRFAN-Canada, which the CRA said used “deceptive fundraising” to help Hamas, pulled out of sponsoring the event that year.
Male speakers far outnumber female speakers promoted on the conference’s website. Female exclusion needs to be “targeted from the root up,” Poonah said.
“University-qualified” women, Poonah said, might be “treated like second-class citizens” in a mosque.
“What the organization is trying to do . . . is try to focus on women who have had that academic background and give them a platform to . . . voice their opinion, because often they’re overlooked,” Poonah said. “We’ve come a long way, but I think that there’s a long way to go.”