SHAFAQNA – About 200 Calgarians attended a conference on Saturday with a goal of addressing Islamophobia through dialogue.
The non-profit group “Think for Actions” organized the “Your Muslim Neighbour” day-long event.
It covered many themes on how to get people of all faiths to respect each other.
Mukarram Ali Zaidi, an assistant professor at University of Calgary, is one of the organizers.
He says a recent survey the group did revealed numbers that might be surprising to some non-Muslims.
Research indicates about 97 per cent of Muslims in Calgary identify as both proud Canadians and proud Muslims.
Still, Zaidi says myths can sometimes be taken as facts by some people.
“We as Calgary Muslims are part of this beautiful fabric,” Zaidi said.
“The myths are we are not integrated, we are not part of it and we don’t care about the community. They are all [proving] to be wrong by the survey. We are proud Canadians, we are proud Muslims, we are giving to charity, we are volunteering, we are working elections, by all accounts we are completely integrated yet we still feel marginalized. It is really sad.”
That is why the conference — which organizers hope will become an annual event — is so important.
“The conference is a new forum for people to come and ask questions about Muslims, about Islam and about the myths about Muslims. We are opening up,” Zaidi explained.
Kohawar Khan attended the event.
She says it’s about having a conversation.
“We are going to get the communities, all communities within Calgary, to work together, to better integrate ourselves. I feel like it is going to create more solutions. There are a lot of people that have come out today, they are here for a cause,” Khan said.
“There are questions and solutions ultimately.”
Ziad Paracha, also with the organizing group, says the survey shows Muslims are more integrated than it was thought.
“There is always a question of identity. Who we are? Where we come from? What are we doing here?” Paracha said.
“Their identity as Muslim Calgarians is that they are both Canadians and they are Muslims and they want to embrace that. They want to embrace the customs, the values and the things Canada has to offer them but at the same time be very proud in practicing their religion and being an integral and active member of their community.”
And organizers hope conferences like this one, are a step in that direction.