Islamophobia a threat to social cohesion, harmony- Pres. Ali
--Urges religious leaders to “speak out” against all forms of injustice at Canadian event
President Dr Irfaan Ali said that Islamophobia has no place in civilised societies and is counterproductive to multiculturalism, in which all are recognised, valued and respected.
The Head of State made this assertion during his virtual address to the Family Summit hosted by the TARIC Islamic Centre of Ontario, Canada on Friday last evening, under the theme “Countering Islamophobia – Effective Strategies, Resources, and Best Practices”.
“Islamophobia is a social disease. It fosters hatred, prejudice, bias and discrimination against persons on the basis of their identification or perceived identification as Muslims.
“It is disruptive to social cohesion and social harmony. As such, Islamophobia also represents a potent threat to multiculturalism,” the President stated.
Day one of the three-day event also had messages from Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau; Premier of Ontario, Doug Ford and Mayor of Toronto, John Tory.
RESPECT FOR ALL
President Ali outlined three important principles in countering Islamophobia, including the importance of laws that promote and protect religious freedom and protect religious communities from being denigrated; greater inter-religious dialogue and the importance of embracing religious and cultural identity.
The President acknowledged that as multicultural societies, both Guyana and Canada recognise the need to engender respect for internal diversity, and both countries also face the challenges associated with multiculturalism, including ethnic prejudice and discrimination.
“We can help each other by sharing our experiences and by identifying what has worked for each of us. This Family Summit is an opportunity for us to do so.”
He pointed to the importance of the law as “the guardian of society” and of Guyana’s constitution, which outlaws discrimination on the basis of religion, religious belief or culture.
“In Guyana, our Constitution protects freedom of conscience. No person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his or her freedom of conscience. It proclaims that this freedom includes freedom of thought and of religion, freedom to change his or her religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others, and both in public and in private, to manifest and propagate his or her religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.”
Canadians, he added, also enjoy the right to religious freedom and freedom of conscience.
The President noted that Islamophobia is not going to disappear overnight. However, by ensuring that the larger family – society – recognises and respects Muslims and their rights, will go a long way towards ending attacks, bias, prejudice, and discrimination against Muslims.
SPEAK OUT AGAINST BIAS
President Ali urged the participants to be consistent in their narrative and to let their voices be heard against all forms of discrimination. He said the Islamic community must be willing to speak out consistently against injustice, biases, issues of democracy and social injustice wherever it exists.
“We have to be consistent with our principles and values…We can’t only speak on an issue when it is in our favour. We have to always be consistent in our narrative. “We cannot be divorced from all these issues that make up our presence in society. And that message must be consistent. It cannot be opportunistic. We have that responsibility. And that responsibility is an important responsibility. Wherever injustice pops up, our voice must be there speaking out against it. “
He emphasised too that as efforts continue to end Islamophobia, so too must be the drive to ensure the true values and teachings of Islam is what is understood by the world. (Extracted and modified press release from the Office of the President)