In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision allowing President Donald Trump’s ban on residents from six predominantly Muslim countries entering the United States, dozens of women, of varying religious backgrounds, gathered in Delta on Saturday afternoon to discuss whether religion promotes extremism.
The event, hosted by the Baitur Rahman Mosque on River Road, was organized by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at British Columbia Women’s Association and was its fourth annual women’s interfaith symposium.
Organizers decided to take on a more complex and nuanced question after receiving feedback in previous years that the events never tackled contentious issues.
“People wanted to talk about real issues,” said Aisha Naveed, public events coordinator for the Ahmadiyya Women’s Auxiliary. “So we thought, ‘why don’t we have a little bit of a controversial topic and let’s see how our faith speakers address it?’”
The event, moderated by Delta Counc. Sylvia Bishop, featured speakers from multiple faiths, such as Rabbi Susan Shamash (Judaism), Pastor Jennifer Wilson (Christianity), Nishtha Nuckchady (Hinduism), Sundeep Kaur (Sikhism) and Naheed Khokher (Islam). Each speaker used their religious background to approach one question: does religion promote extremism?
Naveed said that although the speakers come from different faiths, their responses to this question weren’t different at all.
“Everyone has very similar thinking,” Naveed said.
“The foundation of religion is all the same: love, peace, understanding. I think other issues create extremism, as was said by our speakers. It’s individual interpretation.”
Naveed said it was extremely important to have this conversation with other religious leaders, because it creates a domino effect in their communities.
“They represent their faith, now they’re going to go back to their community and they’ve brought people from their community,” Naveed said. “We hope that, at least, each guest can take away a positive thought and that it sits with them.”
Naheed Chokher flew in from Toronto to represent Islam on the panel. She said that events like this one are crucial in dispelling misconceptions about Muslims.
“Unfortunately, Islam doesn’t have a very good picture and it’s not the picture that God has sent,” Chokher said. “We want the right message to get out, we’re not going to let that knock us down. What we’re going to say is, ‘That’s not the true Islam; let us show you the peaceful Islam.’”
In addition to religious leaders, community leaders like Delta Mayor Lois Jackson, Surrey-Panorama MLA Jinny Sims, Delta Police Sgt. Cathy Geddes and Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints B.C. public affairs council co-director Tonya Engen also sat on the panel.