Montreal Muslims react to violence, call for calm and dialogue
Published Sunday, September 16, 2012 7:09PM EDT
MONTREAL—As turmoil spreads across the Middle East, Ottawa closed embassies in Libya, Egypt and Sudan for the day, citing growing protests over an anti-Islam film.
The move came after four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, was killed in an attack last week.
In Montreal, leaders in the Muslim community are condemning the violent reaction to the film. They say the content may be offensive, but it doesn't justify bloodshed.
During a special inter-faith meal on Sunday, those leaders said it was important to speak out to try and balance negative images of Islam with positive ones. The Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations also issued a statement this week, calling on Canadian Muslims to ignore the film.
The statement says, "The movie has nothing to do with Islam, nor with the West's understanding of it. It has everything to do with fomenting hatred and bigotry."
At the Dorval Mosque on Sunday afternoon, it was a time of prayer and reflection, followed by a meal and conversation.
“It's a wonderful mosque. All of the people here, the brothers and the sisters, are all very nice,” said member Chris Wittet, who converted to Islam two years ago. He says ignorance is to blame for harsh judgments about the religion.
“People in general are undereducated about religion, and religion really shouldn't be a forum for pitting one another against one another.”
A sentiment shared by other members in Dorval, although the film that's prompted widespread protests might be controversial; they say it's not an excuse for violence.
“We regard a lot of things as sacred and we do not like it to be dragged down in the mud if you will,” said Farida Mohamed, from the Muslim Community of Quebec. “The trouble is these few inflammatory elements cause havoc for the Muslim world because, let's face it, in the media Muslims are portrayed very negatively. Muslims are portrayed as terrorists.”
The mosque’s president, Mehmet Deger, called for peaceful demonstrations and dialogue.
The imam at the Dorval mosque said that he's grateful that Canadian Muslims seem to be better off than Muslims in America, although tensions do flare from time to time.
“Hostility towards the hijab, and hostility about other Islamic symbols. We experience that, but that is balanced by the experience that is very positive,” said Ahmad Safaat.