On International Human Rights Day, December 10th, 2015, I was asked to host a diversity and sensitivity training for the Calgary Police Service, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Calgary Fire Brigade, and EMS. It was my first time ever hosting an event like this but it was still an absolutely amazing experience for myself. To be able to discuss my faith with people that are willing to sacrifice their lives for the protection and safety of this country was priceless. My only regret was that I wish I had initiated such outreach programs earlier. It is with that sentiment that I write this post. There is a lot of misinformation out there about Islam, and that is what is causing a lot of fear and Islamophobic events.
From the things we discussed:
What is Islam and Who are Muslims?
What does Islam mean?
What do Muslims believe?
What do Muslims practice?
Demographics of Muslims in the world, Canada, and Calgary Population.
Ethnicity (only 20% of Muslims are actually Arab)
History of Muslims in Canada. (The first mosque in Canada was built in Edmonton in 1939).
The different sects in Islam.
The different organizations that exist in Calgary that represent the Muslim community. Misconceptions about Islam.
Women aren't oppressed in Islam. It is cultural practices that are often confused with the faith.
Islam does not condone violence and terrorism. In fact less than 0.0001% have joined extremist groups. The rest of the community condemns the actions of an extreme fringe minority. What are the sensitivities to be kept in mind when interacting with Muslims.
Sanctity of Faith.
Gender roles (Conservative Muslims might not feel comfortable shaking hands with the opposite gender)
Food and Drink restrictions (No pork and no alcohol)
How can we better foster healthier relationships with the Muslim community:
Build rapport and trust. (Get to know sensitivities)
Have outreach programs. (For law enforcement it is very important to interact with the community in non-confrontational environments).
Be familiar with simple phrases.
Come break bread on ethnic food (You can never go wrong with this one :) If you're interested in learning more, would like to hold a similar presentation, or would like a copy of the PowerPoint I delivered please drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am all about building bridges, and would love to know how you think together we can make the world a safer and better place.