Thursday, 21 February 2013

Happy Mash and make sure no one litters!

Dear Editor

Allow me this opportunity to extend congratulations and best of wishes to all Guyanese on the 43rd anniversary as a Cooperative Republic. This is indeed a proud achievement not only as a democratic apparatus after Independence but to know that only through the inclusive and self help nature as a state can we succeed.

As Black History month comes to a close in February, the famous Imam Cuffy is often mentioned in my presentations as a reminder to the world and Guyanese of all extractions, that his sacrifice in the 1763 revolution benefitted all “in extricating themselves and their generations from the chains of slavery and modern human trafficking”.

While there is much to celebrate in the progress of our beautiful nation of six races; with improved roadways, enhanced schools and booming housing schemes, the environment in Georgetown and the outside villages still remains in the hands of those who have “inherited the massah mentality” to exact a pound of flesh with a gallon of blood for two cents work!

It is laudable to note that our ancestors came from the clean, civilized and literate country of Mali in West Africa, so in the news these days, that boasted of Timbuktu, the city of 120,000 books and 100’s of schools in the 14th century. Today, unlike them, we have found ourselves outdoing each other in littering, instead of liberating; the very places we call home and expect others to take care of it.

I remember the days of the former President, the late Forbes Burnham, where every Guyanese was responsible to clean up their environs and plant their gardens while enforcing their neighbor does the same, in the name of “self help”. That cooperative nature of our Republic calls for such civic pluralism engagement, where not only the Muslims for the Environment organization in Georgetown, driven by Shamal Zamaludin, is active but every faith and political leader needs to adopt this challenge sooner than later. Isn’t cleanliness is next to Godliness? Isn’t cleanliness half of Faith? Isn’t a clean country attracts investors?

The very first civic action the Prophet of lslam, on whom be peace, undertook, upon his arrival in his newly adopted homestead of Madina, was to clean the wells and streets from pollution and ensure clean water was running in the orchards and public streams.

Happy Mash and make sure no one litters!

Yours truly,
Habeeb Alli

Friday, 15 February 2013

Interfaith Harmony Week: more than just talk in Toronto

Interfaith Harmony Week: more than just talk in Toronto
by Habeeb Alli
12 February 2013
Toronto - Given the number of interfaith discussions that seem to generate only documents and hot air, when I heard about the World Interfaith Harmony Week event taking place in Toronto, I thought it may be just another talkfest. Online bloggers and cynics were no help either. “Why bother to drive all the way to this Japanese Cultural Centre when there is a snow storm coming? Your Interfaith dialogues will not stop the death storm hitting Muslims across the Atlantic!” opined one such local blogger.

However, as an imam, and a strong proponent of interfaith dialogue, I am always looking for opportunities to highlight the many examples of faith being used to build peaceful, constructive relationships across artificial dividing lines, such as religion. Suddenly, I wanted to prove to this blogger and his fellow naysayers that there was practical value in this event.

John Voorpostel, the Chair of the World Interfaith Harmony Week Toronto Steering Committee, also wanted the event to be more than talk: “hopefully this dialogue will produce opportunities for faith leaders to engage people of all faiths to come together to practice ‘vigorous hospitality.’”

The phrase “vigorous hospitality” was coined by Brian McLaren, in his 2011 book, Why Did Jesus, Moses, The Buddha and Mohammed Cross the Road?Vigorous hospitality goes beyond tolerance to deliberately reaching out to others in acts of kindness. But where is this vigorous hospitality in this particular cosy panel discussion and reception?

Participants at the World Interfaith Harmony Week panel discussion in Toronto were organised to showcase their interfaith work and they networked energetically, almost like speed dating; leaders, speakers and attendees deliberately partnered with one-another on a number of social justice issues.

As a result, Imam Shaikh Ali of the Canadian Council of Imams for example, said he plans to follow up with a Christian congregation that wants to visit the mosque to learn about Islam first hand; a funding agency that supports multi-faith youth projects; and a Jewish leader looking for information on Muslim-Jewish neighbourhood ventures.

These actions are the success of World Interfaith Harmony Week, everything else was icing on the cake.

I found another example of vigorous hospitality when Voorpostel announced that the proceeds of the dinner held earlier at a mosque would go towards Habitat for Humanity, a Christian-based organisation that builds affordable homes for anyone that is eligible. People of different faiths deliberately figured out a way for this event to be kind to others. Vigorous hospitality and viable networking achieved.

Rev Earl Smith of the Church of Scientology, a member of the Toronto Area Interfaith Committee and the Mosaic networks, commented after the event, “People are still living out their misconceptions of Muslim and Hindu traditions,” referring to recent hate crimes in New York City. Smith’s contribution to vigorous hospitality has been to engage with Hindu and Muslim communities in Toronto during his regular Mosaic Show on Rogers TV in Toronto. Smith added, “They have likewise supported us when asked to clear up misconceptions about the Church of Scientology.”

Sid Ikeda of the Japanese Cultural Centre, a diverse ethnic group of Buddhists, and a practical example of how vigorous hospitality in itself, said in his closing remarks at the gala on 7 February that the high point for many speakers had been addressing ways to practically restore trust for each of the religious groups by getting leaders tonight to partner with one another on different social justice issues.

The concept of World Interfaith Harmony Week was inspired by the Amman Declaration and the Common Word initiative, both coming out of Jordan and supported by Muslims around the world. King Abdullah II of Jordan proposed the idea of an Interfaith Harmony Week to the UN General Assembly in September 2010, which was unanimously adopted. This stands in stark contrast to negative press about Islam and Muslims and demonstrates clearly that there are Muslim leaders who are at the forefront of interfaith activism.

World Interfaith Harmony Week grew from 200 events in 40 countries in 2010 to over 300 plus events worldwide this year. The World Interfaith Harmony Week committee is already planning to host this event annually in the city of Toronto. And I am looking forward to talking loudly about the tangible examples of vigorous hospitality that come out of each one.


* Habeeb Alli is a freelance writer for The Ambition (, a scholar on, and the author of 15 books on Islam ( This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

Source: Common Ground News Service (CGNews), 12 February 2013,
Copyright permission is granted for publication.

Friday, 8 February 2013

walkaton on Feb 18th

Looking for walkers and sponsors!

Walk with me!

Poem written at HALIFAX MASJID 2011



The edge of Eastern Canada

I saw conch shells

I thought of Enmore fishermen

In my half awake mind

You do not leave ever

I wonder what it wold have been like

Under the stary skies

Just once

That you broke your oath

That you do not resist yourself like this lighthouse against waves

Like the bird that flies accross continents

Or John Cabot 1492

You discovered

That thing once again

This act called love

Once lost cannot be regained

Just that imaginary line crosses Nova Scotia to Guyana

Yes love!

Quran search.

Ask a question on Islam.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Important training that I have been calling for for ages! Finally here and affordable!

Jan 2013 reports in the

Jan 2013 reports Ambition

Muslims Host first Multi Faith event about Chaplaincy

What is a chaplain? A spiritual caregiver. However, this knowledge and supporting such work has been rare and left mostly to willing volunteers over the years in Toronto according to longest standing Chaplain and recent recipient of the Queen Diamond Jubilee award, Imam Abdul Hi Patel. He opened the session at Islamic Institute of Toronto that had a 200 strong audience of diverse backgrounds and faiths, given it’s the first event Habeeb and his team of volunteers have embarked on. Fatima Omar Khamissa was the MC and she had her own story of how she visited the women prisons as a speaker and was thrilled by their stories. Among the speakers was Pundit Suraj Persaud who spoke of his work as a Hindu chaplain at U of T and stressed the importance of diversity chaplaincy. Hon. Jim Karrigiannis of Agincourt spoke about the importance of respecting each other and gave certificates of appreciation to each of the ten listed speakers. There was a panel discussion and power point presentation while entertainment was by Omair Ali and Joey Khan. The cuisine was sumptuous and the atmosphere was cordial and enjoyable, given a cold Saturday night in Scarborough!
The main sponsors were Islamcare Ottawa, Canadian Council of Imams and several organizations and biasness supported the initiative, including Emmanuel College that has a Muslim chaplaincy course and new wudu and prayer place for Muslim students.
Moeen Centre host MiladunNabi program

Different people observe the birth anniversary of the Holy Prophet in a variety of ways. Not everyone stands for Tazim and sing the Milad however many persons use the opportunity to educate about this Noble Prophet of Islam who was born and died on the same day of Rabiul Awwal the 12th.

The Centre for persons with physical and developmental challenges did not leave out the young adults and children from this occasion. There were plenty of Quran recitation and naat recitals and speeches by the Muslim children and youths that day. Joey Khan came all the way from Brampton to sing some Qasidas and the young and vibrant Ahmed Habhab gave his story of being incarcerated and now freed, setting a lifestyle of education and work and family. Habeeb Alli spoke on the positive thinking of the Holy Prophet, drawing from his wisdom behind the Black Stone conflict and the positivity he displayed during the man hunt in the cave of Thaur. The program was indeed delightful with a full audience in the Senator O’Connor high school auditorium, with lots to eat and enjoy after. Among the booths on display that day was of IDRF and Moen Centre activities.
Their annual gala will be held at the same school cafeteria on May 11th.

Hussein Day held in l Huda mosque Scarborough
Every year Ghulam Sajan and his Ahl Bayt of Canada hosts a Dinner and Multi Faith forum on the life and works of Imam Hussein, ra

The grandson of the Holy prophet was brutally slain by Yazeed and his army in a terrible and tragic incident that is now recognized by world religions. The Zoroastrian speaker Mr. Bagli spoke laudably about Hussein and the Sikh scholar reminded us that the once President of India Ramakrishna Rao said that Hussein is not mourned by the Muslims but sits in the hearts of all humans. Mr. Armand La Barge spoke eloquently and beautifully about the social justice of Imam Hussein and reminded us that many Imams in Toronto inspired him as former York Police Chief with their love for Hussein and his teachings. Habeeb Alli spoke about the importance of Salat, that Imam Hussein reminded his assassin, even at that critical time, to pray and his courage to stand up to tyranny reminds us even today that the case of tyranny and racism is not over. The Quran recitation was by world renowned Qari Ali Zadeh and many other speakers reminded us including a visiting scholar from Khoum and UK the importance of the Quranic values of social justice and meaning of sacrificing for the preservation of the Quran. It was indeed a wonderful evening at Al Huda Mosque on Kennedy Road Scarborough that raised food stuff and toys for the Muslim food banks and runs a school as well.
Faith in the City Symposium held at City Hall

Are you losing faith in the services City of Toronto provides? Do you see religious bodies as institutions that serve their own congregants an always asking for more money?
The steering committee comprising of Christians, Buddhists, Muslims and Jews decided late last year to host a symposium that restores faith in the city of Toronto as well as in Faith communities, after the murmur of people losing faith. was created and the pun was intended to do just that- see the services of the City as open to all and highlight, among the many, some of the areas where religious groups serve all and not just members of their own congregation. The almost 350 rsvps showed that this free event held in the Councilors chambers of city hall was attended by almost three quarters of those that reserved and the table displayed information about some of those services including license to learn, and after school program run by IDRF. Casino Toronto was energetic in their displays! In the house was Hon MP Olivia Chow, who chose Poverty as the theme of the Jack Layton chair at Ryerson and some of those students volunteered at the event.
Homelessness, disadvantaged youths, after school programs, refugee health, and poverty were the key workshops this time round, with facilitators being from both a religious organization and city run program.
Councilor Joe Milhevic and Sarah Doucet were among the steering Committee and Habeeb Alli from the Canadian Council of Imams among others. A generous grant of 5000 was made by the Metropolitan Church of Toronto and was represented by Rev Brent Hawkes, who did a dexterous job chairing the event.
It was indeed a wonderful event with, lots of networking during the luncheon and people seeking apt partners to continue this type of interfaith work. Next year will be bigger and better and a special award from Councilor Joe was presented to the world known Interfaith activist Paul McKenna for his Golden Rule poster. Habeeb in his closing remarks singled out some important Interfaith leaders, in the audience including Pundit Suraj Persaud, Fr Damian Macpherson, Dr Mark Toulouse, Dr Barbara Landau, Dr Karen Mock and others who are doing amazing things every day to make Toronto the Medina of Faith!

JamiatulUlama held their AGM at Madina masjid
The Canadian Council of Muslim theologians held their biannual General Body meeting at Madina Masjid, which is now their new office and many Ulama in Toronto attended. The significant achievement of the body is the Halal Monitoring Board that oversees many abattoirs and mainstream supermarkets and even restaurants that are willing to offer hand slaughtered chicken. There are many newly approved fine foods too i.e. MINA. The other chief achievement of this body is the Qaza or judicial maters that arrive in the mail of the Ifta department. Fasakh cases are processed through a qualified Qazi who studied in India and much more is made easy for families suffering from separation and need a nikah cancellation. The Jamiat has also joined many Muslims in Canada on some their other issues like the domestic violence campaign and persons with disabilities.

Cedar brae High School host world religion day with Imam, Rabbi and Pastor

World religion should be mandatory but most students say they do not have enough room in their timetable to accommodate such classes or some schools do not offer it. Such was the conversation at the World Religion class at Cedar brae when Habeeb Alli and a Pastor and Rabbi were invited to present about their respective faiths and take questions directly. Usually a Non Muslim teacher teaches the class- so it’s always good to have direct experience with persons from the respective Faiths. Among the questions the students asked were about racism, Jesus, Palestine and women in Islam.
More of these are needed.
First week in February is World Harmony Week and this is good time to get involved. The Council of Imams is signatory to this world document for peace.

Muslims hosts diner at Brampton Halfway House

While everyone is enjoying a great time with friends and family during this holiday, as in some 50 countries- the Birth Anniversary of the Prophet Muhammad- the poor man in the jail doesn’t have to be left out. A sumptuous dinner and a lecture on the Life of the Prophet by Imam Habeeb and Ahmed made lots of questions and interactions meaningful in the life of those who are vulnerable and usually alienated from society. Much appetite to learn is there and Islam creates that interest always. The story of the Prophet, on whom be peace, being persecuted and making it out alive and successful resonated well with some of the inmates that night!

Suffering in Islam and Christianity at U of T dialogue
In the ancient setting of Christ and Rome sat two scholars at the Newman Centre at U of T St George’s campus to discuss their respective Faith perspectives on suffering. There is much to share and lots of questions and interactions from Muslim and Christian students who host a bimonthly dialogue on various topics. The context of this discussion was to seek answers to the atheistic response some Muslim girl had when posed with the dilemma if God is loving so can he allow the murder of innocent children! The Christian response was by Regis College Professor Michael Strober who showed many references that suffering is the suffering of Christ on the Cross and God has a wisdom when he post people through a destiny of His making. Habeeb Alli showed that children are born innocent and do not inherit any sins and the wisdom in a crisis is to test how the survivors and onlookers respond with compassion or not. Also that destiny doesn’t mean a fatalistic end or deterministic attitude but between both is the world of the Believer. That God suffers at our suffering is more important than finding answers to every pain and as Rumi said through the wound the light of God enters.
This discussion was further advanced on the Sunday at the Multi Faith centre where a more direct conversation took place with students. One person came up and wanted a Quran and a book on the introduction of Islam. This event was hosted by the catholic Archdiocese headed by Fr Damian Macpherson who has worked tirelessly in the Muslim Christian relations in Toronto.

ISARC held its annual strategic meeting on moving forward
Planning early for 2013 is the key to success and ISARC steering committee of many diverse faith leaders and key civilians met and worked out some key areas of focus. This interfaith coalition against poverty in Ontario is working with meager fees from member organizations and the Imams Council is one and from a grant from Atkinson Foundation. The able and hard working Michael Skaljin has proven that many town hall meetings, Queens park religious forum and many outreach to diverse communities has paid off with much luck. The last budget at Queens park showed some indicators that poverty is on the radar and hopefully that will be so, on the agenda in the upcoming Provincial elections.
IDI hosts another dinner at Fairmount Royal to highlight Multiculturalism in the media

The Intercultural Dialogue Institute of Toronto, a beautiful Turkish organization, hat focuses on interfaith dialogue and trips to Turkey made another important mark on the Toronto landscape when it hosted its eighth annual gala at the prestigious Fairmount Toronto. Guests included many known media personnel of CTV and Globe and Mail and many interfaith leaders, civic society members and political leaders. Hon Olivia Chow did a fundraiser for Sick Kids Hospital and the key note address focused on key successes in recognizing multicultural elements in the media- to which the Editor of Globe and Mail highlighted the employment diversity reflection and the hard thinking in the news room to show respect to one’s faith and tradition. However, the bad news is this is not always the case and much has to be done as noted by the eloquent PEN Canada head. The presentations were amazing including a play on Turkish coffee and the delicious cuisine. Many were delighted to see that such a topic was tackled in such a cordial and respectful atmosphere where key members of Toronto were present. They have also launched the Public heroes’ campaign and interfaith trips to Turkey and many interfaith dialogues and conferences. Erdem is among the Directors and he is a member of the Council of imams. They are inspired by the teachings of Fethullah G├╝len.

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Habeeb Alli

Friday, 1 February 2013

A tribute to Black History month- an event I helped planned...

we are doing Black History events again- Keele centre feb 14th, Febrook Feb 27th, GVI Feb 22nd, etc