Muslim youth are gathering at the University of Winnipeg (U of W) to share their experiences of following Islam in 2017.
The Islamic Social Services Association (ISSA) and the Canadian Muslim Leadership Institute (CMLI) are hosting a series of forums for Muslim youth to discuss the challenges and concerns that come with living in Canada.
On March 18, they will showcase the results of these forums at the university.
William Barr is the coordinator of Preventative Family Support Services at the ISSA. He’s helping collect the stories, thoughts and hopes from young Muslims. He says they are starting to take another look at the Qur’an, Islam’s religious text, and bringing in new ideas, such as LGBTQ+ inclusion.
“There’s a lot of issues around gender, gender identity, the sort of budding relationship between the Muslim group and certain LGBT groups,” Barr says. “It’s a learning process. Sometimes there’s pushback from groups of people who are less into that stuff.”
Barr says that they do not want to advertise the forums too much, as it may hinder the chance to hear from young Muslims, who might be afraid of speaking their mind. He adds that if a random person outside of the community were to hear what some Muslims were discussing without context, it might bring more discrimination towards all Muslims.
Maya Summers, a university student and self-described atheist, says that while she understands the need for these forums, she can’t ignore how patriarchal some Muslim countries are.
“I understand that there’s a lot of hate towards Muslims in our society. Nobody should feel terrible for being who they are,” Summers says. “But I don’t think we should ignore the fact that some (countries) that come from Islam are some of the worst places for women to live in.”
Summers says that many other religions face the same problems, and many of them are looking at ways to keep up with the times and adapt to today’s
Barr says that Muslim youth need a chance to ask these difficult questions in peace, as he believes there's an unfair focus on Islam in the media.
"There's a bit of a microscope put on the (Muslim) community.” Barr says. “You look at the Orlando nightclub incident ... If it was a Christian who shot up that nightclub, would they be saying the same thing?”
The final forum will be on March 18 - see issacanada.com for more details.