Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/11/2010 (3754 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A recent poll shows that more than half of all Canadians have a bad feeling about Islam, and a national conference in Winnipeg this week is hoping to change that.
"Canada is a great place to be," said Marwa Fadol, a Calgary school psychologist and speaker at the two-day forum for service providers that starts Wednesday.
"It's very diverse," said Fadol. "But sometimes people don't have a clue how many assumptions that they're making."
Fadol hopes the conference put on by the Islamic Social Services Association will help teachers, social workers, law enforcement and settlement workers better understand their Muslim clients.
"It blows my mind, there's so many assumptions," said Fadol, who works for Alberta Health with kids in the school system dealing with mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
She sees teenage girls who wear a hijab, or head scarf, who've been taken aside by well-meaning teachers and told they don't have to wear a hijab at school and if they want to take it off, they'll be safe and protected and their parents won't find out.
"They're assuming she's being forced to wear it, assuming she needs safety from her parents," Fadol said.
"It's done with the best of intentions but it's not really helpful to the student. It results in the student being more conflicted between two ways of life."
And it sets a precedent for hiding things from a parent, she said. Fadol hopes that a light will go on for service providers at the conference who have Muslim clients.
"The main thing is for people to be open-minded and to have an understanding of what it's like to be a Muslim Canadian," she said.
"They may not have control over the political climate or tension in the U.S. or the Middle East, but knowledge is power," said Fadol. "With awareness and information, we can suspend some of the judgments and stereotypes."
Close to 56 per cent of Canadians have a negative impression of the Muslim faith, said conference organizer Shahina Siddiqui, citing a recent Maclean's magazine survey.
That impression often affects the way lawyers, social workers, teachers and other service providers deal with Muslim clients, said Siddiqui, executive director of the Islamic Social Services Association.
"It's obvious there is need for information and... understanding for service providers whether they're dealing with the established community or newcomers."
And there's a need for more information within the Muslim community, Siddiqui said. At the conference, the organization is launching an anti-domestic violence campaign with posters going to Muslim communities across Canada.
The first posters will be in English, followed by other languages prominent among Canadian Muslims. The posters will refer people to a national help line with access to interpreters, Siddiqui said.
Muslim values are not necessarily out of synch with Canadian values, she said.
Another false assumption is that Muslims are a monolithic group, she said. A primer for legal professionals about Shariah, or Islamic law, is also being unveiled at the conference. It aims to help them better understand where some of their clients are coming from, legally. The organization has also prepared a booklet for people who foster Muslim kids.
She's hoping it will make people more aware of a child's sensitivity to things like pets in the home and kinds of feminine protection.
"There are so many little things," said Siddiqui, such as hygiene. "If a child is used to a certain routine, you need to maintain that or cause a lot of mental or spiritual anguish."
For more information on the conference see www.issaservices.com/issa/seminars.html.
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.