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Local Muslim organizations ponder recommendations to be submitted to feds

There needs to be clarity around municipal bylaw that will monitor harassment behaviours on public property, says executive director of Coalition of Muslim Women of KW
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Local Muslim organizations are diving deeper within to come up with recommendations to be sent to the federal government.

The move comes as a result of the recent National Summit on Islamophobia.

Fauzia Mazhar, executive director, Coalition of Muslim Women of KW (CMW), said a lot happened during the summit and she and her staff have yet to discuss the coalition's post-summit feedback.

However, she said, there were some thoughts she could share around the matter.

"We're looking at the recommendations from the NCCM (National Council of Canadian Muslims)," Mazhar said, adding thet municipal governments could step up by elaborating policies around religion-related harassment on public property. "It's really important there's clarity about what kind of behaviour is tolerated. That would be very important for us." 

It's important for municipal governments to understand the anti-Islamophobia work and support local organizations that work against it, she said. 

"We'll continue to question and advocate for actions to be taken by the federal governments, especially against (Quebec's) Bill-21," Mazhar said, talking about the now legislation that prohibits the display of religious symbols by public-sector workers in the work place.

As well, she said, there was a promise made at the summit about reviewing Canada Review Agency policies around its review and analysis division.

"It singles out or randomly selects charities for audits," said Mazhar, talking about a report shared earlier this year. The report looked at reviews done between 2008 and 2015. "In the end, 75 per cent of the charities that were investigated in the last few years were Muslim charities. It was really disproportionate." 

Fatir Ahmad, imam of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community for Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo, and Guelph, said some general work could also be done against Islamophobia. 

"Out of ignorance comes hate," he said. "The best way to tackle that would be to educate the masses about what Islam truly is. It literally means peace." 

Ahmad was talking to CambridgeToday from the perspective of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community based on the teachings of Mirza Masroor, the Caliph.

"Our perspective on Islamophobia is slightly different than the regular Muslim perspective," Ahmad said. "We've gone through it for a long period if time in Pakistan. We're not allowed to practice some of our basic religious rights there."

He said, one of the main causes of Islamophobia is the media. 

"After 9/11, whenever someone would commit an attack, they would always label them as Muslim terrorist," Ahmad said, adding, "If a Christian commits an act, they would never call it a terrorist attack but say that person was mentally unstable." 

That, he said, causes people to think of Islam as having a terrorism component. 

"The media should highlight the good that Muslims do as well," Ahmad said. "In (the Ahmadiyya) community, we do a lot of activities in the community. We do blood donation drives, we clean up streets, and help out at the homeless shelter and food banks. Things like this show that Muslim are loving and caring people." 

In Canada, he said, no one will read Muslim religious books to learn about Islam and their neighbours that practice the religion.

"They're going to read us at the end of the day," he said. "If we're not following the true teachings of Islam, then people are going to have a bad taste in their mouth."