Response to recent human rights decisionsby Syed Soharwardy
When I initiated my complaint against Mr. Levant, I saw human rights commissions as a non-violent means of resolving differences among Canadians.
I was not aware of the controversies between the commissions and Canada’s faith communities. I am thinking specifically of my friend Fred Henry, the Roman Catholic bishop of Calgary.
Upon learning about the difficulties he and other faith communities have encountered with the commissions, I withdrew my complaint against Mr. Levant.
One of the reasons I chose Canada as my adopted homeland is because of our country’s great respect for religious freedom.
In Canada, I am free to be good Canadian and a good Muslim. There is no contradiction between the two.
In listening to the experiences of Bishop Henry and Pastor Boissoin, I realized how precious religious freedom is to our country and how easily freedom is lost.
Yes, I have often expressed concerns over Islamophobia.
Some of the portrayals of Muslims in the media have been painful – so much so, that I worried when I set out across Canada on the multifaith walk against violence.
However, the reaction from ordinary Canadians could not have been more hospitable. Canadians of all races, colours, religions, and ages have welcomed me, a Muslim man with brown skin, into their homes, their neighbourhoods and their communities.
They have walked with me, eaten with me and prayed with me.
They have expressed strong concern for preserving our civil liberties – which includes freedom of speech and religion.
They have also expressed a strong desire to end violence in Canada and around the world.
This experience has taught me that we can only end violence when we respect the freedom all Canadians.
There will always be pockets of Islamophobia in Canada, just like there are still pockets of anti-Semitism, racism and sexism.
However, I have learned that the best way to dispel misconceptions between our various cultures and communities is for us to meet face to face and learn from each other similarities and difference.
This can only be accomplished in a society that respects freedom of expression, freedom of religion and all of our other democratic freedoms.
This is a very encouraging sign, and it shows that true religious principles can be a huge bulkwork against the fascism that permeates the Human Rights Commissions.
We owe a great deal of gratitude to my good friend, Pete Vere, who has been dialoguing with Syed over the past several weeks. The fruit of respectful dialogue can indeed yield good fruit.