Monday, September 28, 2009

Word on the Street 2009 - Part 2 - Proselytizing for Islam

According to its website, "The Word On The Street is a national celebration of literacy and the written word."

Perhaps they should amend that to include the created word, since the Koran was so heavily promoted there by the Islamic Information Center at University of Waterloo.

Don't just take my word for it; read what a Muslim website says about the event (note: dawah means proselytizing for Islam):

Type: Dawa


Date: 9/27/2009
Time: 11.00AM - 5.00PM

Suitability: Men, Women, Youth, Non-Muslim, New Muslim

Contact Info: Islamic Information Center

1). Queen's Park, Toronto Downtown
2). Victori Park - Kitchener Downtown

Comments: Assalam-O-Aleykum Brothers and Sisters

This edition of E-News includes:

1. Largest Event of the Year in Kitchener and Toronto (Sept 27)
2. Weekly Islamic Information Booth (Sept 23)
3. Volunteers Needed

1. Largest Dawah Event of the Year in Canada:

Alhamdullilah, IICUW is actively participating in one of the largest event in Canada, called, Word on the Street in Kitchener as well as in Toronto on this coming weekend, Sunday, Sept 27, 2008.

Over 210, 000 people attending this event in Toronto (equal to 10 times of full UW population) and 10, 000 people in Kitchener (half of the full UW population). This is Canada's largest book and magazine festival at National Level.

Sept 27, 2008, 11.00am – 5.00pm, Victoria Park, Kitchener Downtown
Sept 27, 2008, 11.00am – 5.00pm, Queen's Park, Toronto Downtown

Islamic Information Center, by the Grace of Allah, is FIRST and ONLY Islamic organization who is participating in Kitchener and IICUW is the FRIST and ONLY Islamic organization who is participating in two cities in Canada last year 2008 when thousands of dawah material was distributed to our non-Muslims community.

Alhamdullilah, we also participating this year.

The Islamic Information Center at University of Waterloo's website states:
Literacy Awareness Campaign
  • Learning how to read Qur'an in Arabic
  • Free Access to books in Multilanguages
  • Awareness of Community Diversity
  • Family Values Literacy in Multiculral* Society
  • Community Relations Awareness
and, for all I know, that is enough of a tie-in to The Word on the Street.

However, literacy was not mentioned to me by the folks at their booth. Instead, I was told that women have equal rights in Islam and that a woman -- Mohammed's wife -- was the first person to become a Muslim. I was also told that the Koran is the only holy book that has an entire chapter devoted to women (titled, "Women") yet it does not have a chapter called "Men." In addition, I was told that a lot of Christians were converting to Islam and that 60-70 percent of the people converting to Islam are women.

I was given an English-language Koran (The Quran, translated by Maulana Wahiduddin Khan). Inside the small paperback were tucked two tracts from the Islamic Information & Da'wah Centre International: How to Train Your Willpower to Work for [sic] and 7 Reasons to Read The Glorious Qur'an.

Another booklet that was given to me, Islam: Balancing life and beyond by Suhail Kapoor, was used to relate the wonderful story of Yvonne Ridley.

I'll let the booklet tell the miraculous tale:
"Muslim women's sense of sisterhood makes 'Western feminism pale into insignificance', says Yvonne Ridley, the tabloid journalist who converted to Islam after her experiences in a Taleban Jail. Where she claims that not a finger was laid on her nor was she mistreated during her captivity. Her study of the Qur'an after her release left her with no choice other than to embrace Islam."
I was also given a booklet, The Amazing Quran by Gary Miller; three pamphlets: The Qur'an, The "Final Revelation" And "Divine Guidance" From The Creator (author not given but seven websites listed), Islam Teaches Kindness to Animals and Depression How Islam Can Help (both by The Center for Islamic Development); and a DVD titled, The Fog is Lifting, part I, Islam In Brief, produced by Bridges Foundation.

Despite what was written on the Muslim website about the event, the Korans were only given away for free to non-Muslims. When a Muslim asked for one, she was flat-out refused. Literacy was not mentioned to her, either.

Why was The Word on the Street used to promote Islam to non-Muslims?

With all of the egregious human rights violations taking place in Islamic countries today, and the oppression of girls and women in Muslim households even in non-Muslim countries, why was this group allowed to present Islam as being strong on women's rights?

I didn't ask questions or attempt to engage the earnest proselytizer in dialogue. I wanted to mention the terrible plight of girls and women in Islamic countries. I wanted to list the names of Muslim girls and women who have been the victims of so-called honour killings. I wanted to bring up the topic of female genital mutilation. But why bother? I wasn't likely to get honest answers and I wasn't in the mood for an argument. I listened as if I was interested, took the freebies and left.

There were communist books and buttons to see, after all. More on those later.


Vardit said...

Sometimes I feel Canada is a country where people laugh at us because they know they can take advantage of any event and the law will not touch them. A huge outdoor book sale is supposed to be just that. It definitely should not be a place for a "Dawah". People went to this outdoor event to buy books and get to know some authors, not to be converted. What's next? A "Dawah" outside Price Shoppers or outside a Shopper's Drug Mart?

Josephine said...

It's a free-for-all.

Jan said...

A free-for-all is what every secular state is. Either end the notion that every religion is equal and free under the law and thus criminalize all religion, or elevate the Christian religion to pride-of-place (which it was rather by default until failure to reproduce made immigration necessary)and define a specific and limited tolerance that allows people to worship privately but not proselytize for other religions.

Josephine said...

Thanks for your comment, Jan. Do you think that our tax dollars should be funding religious proselytizing at a literacy-oriented book fair?

Do you think that religious outreach has any place at such an event when the only book that booth was actually promoting was the Koran?

(My "free-for-all" was a joke re. the dawah freebies I was given and the extra rights some groups seem to enjoy.)