New Muslim group criticizes extremists, says ‘it’s time to give back to Canada’
October 15, 2012 | Joanne Hill - Correspondent
Author and activist Raheel Raza has created a new initiative for moderate Muslims because, she says, “it’s time to give back to Canada.”
Raza is president of the Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow, which was officially launched last weekend before a diverse audience of about 200 people at the North York Public Library. Raza is also author of the book, Their Jihad... Not My Jihad.
Guest speakers at the event didn’t hold back in criticizing extremist Islamists and their enablers. They all extolled Western values and freedoms and each Muslim speaker expressed great optimism that this new venture would provide a voice and a platform to help bring their religion and their fellow Muslims into a modern age of reform and liberty.
“Muslims Facing Tomorrow (MFT) is not a religious organization but a movement of Muslims from all backgrounds, traditions and nationalities to face tomorrow – to face the future – unlike what some of my co-religionists would do, which is face 7th-century yesterday,” said Raza. “Our aim at MFT is three-fold: to expose, educate and embrace.”
The organization wishes to expose Muslims who work against Canadian values and would cause harm to the country and its people; enlighten and educate Muslims, especially youth, about the importance of participating fully in a liberal democracy that safeguards individual freedoms; and embrace the pluralism espoused in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Raza explained. She emphasized that MFT is eager to work with people of all backgrounds.
Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, founder and president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy and author of A Battle for the Soul of Islam: An American Muslim Patriot’s Fight to Save His Faith, served as the keynote speaker.
Jasser addressed the challenges facing Muslim reformers and the need to help young Muslims develop an identity based on the Western democratic countries in which they live; one which is separate from their personal, religious identity.
“This conflict is at the heart of every Muslim child, every Muslim family that is dealing with these issues when geopolitics get internalized into our identity,” said Jasser. “One of our challenges is to build a new community, not only inside the mosque but outside the mosque, so that our Muslim identity doesn’t have to be wedded to the old infrastructure.”
The “fronts of the conflicts” facing Islam and Muslims, Jasser said, are tribalism vs. individualism, reason vs. scriptural exegesis; minority rights vs. majority rights; nationalism vs. theocratic identity; reverence for religion vs. reverence for G-d; truth vs. corruption and gender identity issues vs. misogyny and racism.
MFT Vice-President Salim Mansur, professor of political science at the University of Western Ontario, conveyed a message from Senator Pamela Wallin on behalf of the government of Canada, which stated in part, “The prime minister has clearly stated that he will make religious freedoms a priority for Canadian foreign policy. The government of Canada has plans in place to create a new Office of Religious Freedom to protect the rights of individuals and monitor these rights around the world.... Canada is a country of many ethnicities and religions but we all share one humanity: one of tolerance, one of acceptance, one of peace and security.”
Christine Williams, MFT advisory board member and international award-winning talk show host and producer at CTS TV, identified the crux of the problem now confronting the world as “a virulent form of Islam, political Islam, that seeks to establish shari’a [Islamic law] globally.”
She commended the work of the “genuine moderates” who had joined forces to start MFT despite the physical threats and marginalization they have encountered.
“They support human rights for all; they support free speech,” said Williams. “They reject shari’a, they recognize Israel’s right to exist and they support our democratic right to free speech no matter how offensive.”
Businesswoman Savita Verma introduced the event. The film, Divine Stone, which dramatizes the effects of shari’a law on a small village in Bangladesh, was screened. The docu-drama was written and produced by MFT General Secretary Hasan Mahmud.
Members of MFT currently range in age from 8 to 85, according to Raza.
For more information visit www.muslimsfacingtomorrow.com.