October is Islamic Heritage Month in Canada. Islam is the world’s second largest religion, the fastest growing of the major traditions, and perhaps the most misunderstood. For Canada, this misunderstanding is a serious issue that risks sowing social division in our schools, our workplaces, and our communities. This is where religious literacy can help.

Luckily, there are many organizations taking initiative to make a difference at both national or local levels. For example, the Coalition of Muslim Women is partnering with the Kitchener and Waterloo public libraries to do a series of virtual and in-person events that includes speakers, lunch-and-learns and story time featuring Muslim stories and characters. This hearing of one another’s stories is so vital to understanding one another and fostering connection.

The Toronto District School Board a few years ago put together an enormous booklet with all sorts of resources from books to films to speakers and even music. It’s an excellent resource that you can peruse to find whatever speaks to you best.

I am heartened first by the example of folks like the Coalition of Muslim Women and the Muslim advisors to the school board. That kind of leadership is invaluable. But I am also heartened by the involvement of the public libraries and the school board because we cannot be blind here to questions of power. Addressing injustices cannot simply be foisted on those feeling its effects. It is a task for all of us and if you enjoy certain privileges in society, be they economic, educational, based on class, race, sex or what have you, it’s really important to use that position to help create justice for all.

At Encounter, we want to help communities be able to speak to each other and to share with others what is most beautiful and meaningful to them. We love bringing people together across such boundaries. For this particular month, we have developed a resource for organizations and workplaces but it has relevance for anyone who wants to know more about their Muslim neighbours and colleagues (see Islam & The Welcoming Workplace. This platform required a low resolution file but if you want a high resolution version, just email encounter@worldreligions.ca).

What’s going on around you? We would love to hear back from you on any efforts you encounter locally or at a larger scale to help foster increased literacy on Islam during this month. It’s great to hear what others are doing!

Canada is an especially religiously diverse country, with significantly larger proportions of Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and Buddhists than even the UK or USA. With each passing decade, it becomes even more diverse. For this society to work, as it must, we all need to put in the work to know one another better. The payoff is to feel more connected to one another and to create a more just world.

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