About 200 women from different faiths gathered at Delta’s Baitur Rahman Mosque on Sunday afternoon to learn about women in Islam.
The event on Nov. 20 was hosted by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at British Columbia Women’s Association to celebrate its 50th year in Canada and consisted of a panel presentation and lunch. Event organizer Aisha Naveed said the event aimed to demonstrate how Ahmadiyya women have integrated into Canadian society while upholding their beliefs and values.
“We were trying to remove a lot of the misconceptions that people have, that we don’t integrate enough, that we hide away and we’re timid and shy – because we’re not,” she said.
Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at, a revival movement within Islam, has led several national campaigns in Canada aimed at fostering understanding. Last year’s Je Suis Hijabi campaign invited women from all faiths to try on a hijab and learn more about its significance and 2015’s Meet a Muslim Family connected families to help them learn more about one another.
“ISIS and all these extreme groups are not the true representation of what Islam is,” Naveed said.
Panel presenters included Susan Shamash of the Or Shalom Synagogue in Vancouver and Tonya Engen of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Engen stressed that interfaith events create deeper appreciation for one another.
“It helps us strengthen our own faith when we understand other people,” she said. “Right now, more than ever, we need to be friends with one another to help uphold each other’s beliefs.”
Citing her own experiences attending church and synagogue services, event media coordinator Shafquat Malik said that sharing a place of worship breaks down barriers.
“I could understand [people of other faiths] on a different level,” she said.
Malik said the mosque hosts programs coordinated by men and women together, but some, like Sunday’s event, focus only on just the male or female sphere.
“The most important thing you can learn is at the end of the day religion is not something that is to be imposed on others,” she said. “The Qur’an explicitly says so: for you, is your religion, and for me, is my religion. I think the trouble begins when you try to impose your values on other people.”
Malik said women are often teachers within their own families.
“My kids learn from me. They automatically inherit my fears and my values. If we can teach these women, or tell them who we are, [and] they can overcome their biases, it means we are not just teaching the women; we’re teaching the whole family.”
North Delta residents Diane Parsons and Rita Hagman from North Delta attended after a mosque representative extended an invite at a Sunday service at their church, Trinity Lutheran on River Road.
“The focus today was spent on talking about women and their religion, and I was very heartened by what I heard,” Hagman said.
Parsons said getting out and meeting people from other faiths helps facilitate understanding. “I think anytime we make a relationship with someone or between groups it’s going to decrease fear.”