Q: Could you say a few words about yourself and your activities in Toronto?
A: I was born in India but I left there at the age of 12 to join my Father and Brother in Barbados. My father had settled there since 1934. I came to Canada in 1969 as a student to study Electronic Engineering.
At that time there were only about 4 to 5 people who could do the duties of Imam, i.e. leading them in Namaz, Perform Funeral and Marriage service etc. With my knowledge, I was volunteered as an Imam and ever since I have been serving as a volunteer Imam here along with my full time job in engineering until my early retirement in 2005. The list of my activities in Muslim and Non-Muslim communities would take two to three pages, which also includes involvement in political and social justice areas.
Q: Do you have an estimate of the Muslim population in Canada?
A: When I came here in 1969, the Muslim population in Toronto, based on my estimation would have been approximately 1000. Today, there are over a million Muslims in Canada and half of them live in GTA.
Q: How many Mosques and centres are available for Muslims and do they meet the needs of the communities?
A: In the GTA alone there are over 100 Mosques, which include both Sunni and Shi’ia. In Canada, there are over 500 to 600 Mosques. These do not include many Musallah (unofficial prayer rooms) which can number over 1000 across the country. Moreover, Friday Prayer takes place in many Work places (Office, Factories etc), Schools, Universities & Colleges, as well as rented facilities in various towns.
(In GTA Juma Namaz is performed at more than 250 places, every Friday).
However, this does not mean that all or most Muslims are connected with Mosques. Numbers of Muslims have left their Islam back home and in my estimation in GTA, 30 to 40% have no connection with Mosques. They only look for one when there is a marriage or death in the family.
Q: As you know, there are people who enjoy seeing division and conflict among Muslims; as the saying goes, “divide and conquer”. What plan do you have to prevent hate and separation among Muslims and facilitate love and solidarity among Muslims instead within Canada?
A: My approach is to build bridges among communities. Muslim community here is not monolithic. We are not one community, but we are communities. Muslims have come to Canada from many countries, with different schools of thought, cultures and languages. It is a big challenge; however, we are all united in our Islamic fundamentals, Namaz, Fasting, Zakat and Hajj. Only the English language unites us in our programs other than worship. Our Canadian model of pluralism helps us to work closely among all Muslim Sects.
Q: What sources are available in this country for those who were subject to discrimination due to their hijab or faith?
A: We have the Canadian Charter of Rights and the best Human Rights Code in the world, especially in Ontario. This allows us freedom of religion. Employers and Institutions have to accommodate religious needs. Our Jails and Hospitals provide Prayers, Halal Food, Iftar and Sohoor especially in jails.
Q: There is another issue in Muslim communities that need to be addressed. For instance, the mental instability and poor health is expanding quickly in communities. Are there any facilities available for such people?
A: Mental health is a growing problem in this country from coast to coast. In Canada it has a wider definition, which is not known to many new Canadians. Often people fail to recognize it as an illness and do not seek treatment. Educational programs are conducted by health care providers everywhere, but can’t keep pace with the rise in mental health. There are no Muslim-only medical facilities. Muslims in particular and Canadians in general, avoid talking about it. It is still a stigma in the society.
Q: As you know, all the terrorist activities in all around the world has been done and promoted by Salafi-Wahhabism. What do you have to say in this regards? Do you consider Salafi-wahhabism mentality rooted in the Quran or it has nothing to do with Islam but an ideology of hatred and killing?
A: Modern day Salafi-Wahhabisim has drifted from the original doctrine of elimination of Bidats (invocations). Their Scholars and adherents today, in their literal but skewed interpretation of Quran and Hadith is used for political and material purpose, resorting to terrorism, which can never be justified through Quran and Sunnah. Muhammad (saw) was sent as a Mercy to humanity, not to destroy it.
Q: What measures do you take to prevent the emergence of such ideologies in Canada?
A: The Middle East conflicts continue to be the main attention grabber of our Youths, in spite of many lectures, Khutbas and teachings by many Imams against resorting to violence. The Internet has become their Imam and Guide. So Imams and Community leaders have little control over their mindset. I urge people to report those who are inspired by this ideology as national security is a concern of all Muslims.