Billed as “A STUDY IN DIVERSITY”
The United Church’s biggest theological school now offers a program in Muslim studies.
Critics say Emmanuel College has gone too far, while others insist the school in on the cutting edge of the interfaith century.
“Cutting edge”?! Nice choice of locution! Perhaps “United Church” should now be renamed to “Imamuel Madrasa”(?)!
And – what strange metaphoric false idol is this “interfaith century“?! Vile Salesman!
By Drew Halfnight
A new Muslim studies program at the United Church’s largest seminary pushes the envelope of theological education
In Room 108 of Emmanuel College in Toronto, students are having a spirited conversation about God. A nun with an Irish accent puts up her hand. “I don’t think God actively participates in evil,” she says. “He merely allows evil to happen.” A moment later, a young man pipes up with a different twist: “The more trials we face, the more God is remembering us.”
REALLY? WHAT ABOUT QUR’ANIC SURA 4:77: “Those who whined “Hold back your hands (from attacking)” were corrected:
“War is compulsory for us – the good and bad both come from allah!”
It’s a class like any other in the United Church theological school’s 82-year history, except for a few pointed differences. The teacher, Nazila Isgandarova, is a Muslim, and none of the students – three Anglican sisters, one Sunni and one Shi’a imam, a United Church bureaucrat and assorted lay people – are training for the clergy. Welcome to Islamic Spirituality in a Health Care Setting, the first course offered in Emmanuel College’s new Canadian Certificate in Muslim Studies program. For now it’s a non-degree pilot program, but in the coming years, the school plans to add a master of pastoral studies track for Muslims, more Muslim professors and perhaps a centre for Islamic studies.
The reasons for this are in part demographic and historical. Canada’s Muslim population is growing faster than any other religious group in Canada, doubling to over a million in the past decade alone. While the newcomers are on average highly educated, they need help adapting and getting established here. The United Church, meanwhile, possesses a wealth of property and resources and, with a long history of engaging in interfaith dialogue, is well positioned to assist its Muslim counterparts.
i.e: “WE POSSESS A WEALTH OF PROPERTY WHICH WE FEEL GUILTY ABOUT, SO WE’LL GIVE IT TO THEM BEFORE THEY DECIDE TO TAKE IT FROM US ANYWAY!”
And – since when are muslim newcomers from Eastern sand-boxes “highly educated!“?
Some view interfaith sharing as the best hope for not only reconciliation among faith groups in Canada and the integration of a new religious minority, but also the continued relevance of a Christian denomination at a crossroads. “The 20th century was the ecumenical century,” declared Emmanuel’s principal, Mark Toulouse, in a recent interview. “The 21st century is going to be the interfaith century.”
IN OTHER WORDS, IRRELEVANT CHRISTIANITY NEEDS TO APOLOGIZE TO ISLAM!
The idea of instituting a Muslim studies program at a Christian seminary was dreamed up by Nevin Reda, a Muslim, and Susan Harrison, a Mennonite, while the pair led scriptural reasoning seminars at the University of Toronto in 2008.
THIS WAS DREAMED UP BY A MUSLIMA; QUEL SURPRISE!
Reda, now the co-ordinator of Muslim studies at Emmanuel, says the seminars literally redefined her faith. “A new definition of the word ‘Islam’ jumped out at me while I was reading about biblical Hebrew,” she says.
While the Arabic word “Islam” is commonly translated as “submission,” Reda saw it could also mean “wholeness-making.”
OH, WELL, I GUESS THAT MAKES IT OFFICIAL, THEN!
“It was a process of getting to know oneself through knowing the ‘other;'” she says of the seminars, “and experiencing that all of us together form a whole.”
BUT THEN, WHY DOES THE QUR’AN SAY ALL ‘THE OTHERS’ MUST BE KILLED TO ASSURE THAT YOU MUSLIMS GET INTO YOUR BROTHEL VERSION OF A HEAVEN:
According to Muhammad, the only sure path to paradise is through Jihad.
The Hedaya (the largest sharia compilation,) describes violent, non-defensive (and random) Jihad as islam’s “most pious act.”
Although Muslims are to face the Last Day, where their time in hell is to be determined (with sins weighed against good deeds) Muhammad laid down an exception for martyrs – those who are slain in the cause of Allah – at a time when he conveniently needed them. They get the fast track to Paradise where they wait on the rest (Qur’an (3:169-170)). A martyr doesn’t necessarily have to have killed anyone, but a Muslim is required to join the battle (if able) and at least make an attempt to kill (Qur’an (9:39)).
Islam is a threat to everyone because IT says it is.
Holy mobster Moslems only hate infidels because the Qur’an says “god” orders them to – Period.
ALL moslems are criminals because, by their own rules, they must endorse in public every word in the Qur’an.
And the Qur’an tells them that they are so “superior” to all non-moslem humans, that it’s not only their right, but also their holy duty to their god, to extort, enslave, and murder all the non-moslems in the world, simply for the “crime” of not being moslems.
“Slay the idolators wherever you find them…” Chapter 9, verse 5
“When you encounter the unbelievers, strike off their heads until you have made a great slaughter among them….” Ch. 47:4
So the Qur’an is a clearly-written, us-versus-them hate-crime book, endorsing a permanent might-makes-right death-threat.
And although all of it’s earlier, more peaceful passages were officially “abrogated” by the newer, totally violent and intolerant ones proclaiming and commanding eternal war, they were kept in the Qur’an to deceive all the infidels because, as they note in Mohammad’s own words, “War is deceit!”
Please read the following:
“Kill the Jews and the Christians if they do not convert to Islam or refuse to pay Jizya tax.” (9:29)”Any religion other than Islam is not acceptable.” (3:85)”Terrorize and behead those who believe in scriptures other than the Qur’an.” (8:12). “O believers, fight the unbelievers around you” (9:123).
Or, 24:55 (allah’s promise of world domination): “Allah has promised to those of you who believe, that He will most certainly make them rulers in the earth.”
Muslims are urged not to be friends with anyone who is not Muslim (4:144, 5:57 and 5:51: “Believers, take neither Jews nor Christians for your friends”) – hey! This is “God” talking!
EVERY IMAGINABLE CRIME IS OFFICIALLY COMMANDED TO BE COMMITTED BY ALL MOSLEMS AGAINST ALL THE NON-MOSLEMS IN THE WORLD FOR ALLAH!
Sura At-Taubah 9:29 commands Muslims to wage war against Jews, Christians & Zoroastrians until we are subjugated and submit to extortion.
9:120 promises Muslims that any step taken to injure or enrage disbelievers will be imputed to them by allah as a righteous good deed.
Here’s islam’s “holy Message from god” as exemplified by the collective words and deeds of it’s Founder:
“I will save humanity by lying to, extorting, torturing, robbing, burning out of their homes, kidnapping and ransoming, enslaving, raping and murdering everyone who even only verbally disagrees with me – and you can, too!”
Moe’s last speech to his followers on Mt. Arafat:
“I descended by allah with the sword in my hand, and my wealth will come from the shadow of my sword. And the one who will disagree with me will be humiliated and persecuted.”
How appropriate, then, that the Muslim studies project she conceived only became whole when she found the right Christian partner, Mark Toulouse, in August 2008. “He was our godsend,” says Imam Habeeb Alli, a Muslim scholar who attended Toulouse’s first rendezvous with program advocates. “Somehow in that meeting, the seeds were planted. He was sincere and adamant that this could happen.”
NO DOUBT HE WAS REALLY DETERMINED TO “SOMEHOW” ADAMANTLY MAKE THIS (INFUSION OF SATANIC SAUDOMITE MONEY) HAPPEN!
Before coming to Emmanuel, Toulouse had been dean and professor of Christian history at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, Texas, where he had also spearheaded a new program in Jewish studies. Presented with the chance to start a similar program for Muslims at Emmanuel, he pounced.
AHAH! A ‘MERCAN SALESMAN STRAIGHT OUT OF TEXAS! THE SNAKE-OIL SELLING CARPET-BAGGING TRAITOR! I’LL JUST *BET* HE “POUNCED” ON THIS!
“Mark has a tenacity about him. When he has taken up something, he goes for it,” Alli says.
One of Toulouse’s first moves was to write a 10-page vision statement demonstrating an impressive grasp of the Canadian and United Church contexts. It draws on key denominational documents, the Bible, the Qur’an, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and postmodern philosophers.
The program’s stakeholders share Toulouse’s profound faith in the power of cross- cultural learning.
“Knowledge of any kind trumps ignorance,” says Samira Kanji, a student in the program’s other inaugural course, the Qur’an in the Canadian Context.
Many feel the Muslim studies program could help dispel rampant fear of Islam. (A recent Angus Reid poll suggests 72 percent of Canadians don’t “approve” of the religion.) Kanji puts it kindly when she says non-Muslims are “curious” about Islam: “What is it? Is it all these horrible things people tell us it is? Is it intrinsically violent? Is this jihad, this terrorism, a part of the culture?” As president of an Islamic cultural centre in Toronto, Kanji has built partnerships with synagogues and regularly hosts non-Muslims at Friday prayers.
“Everyone needs to become fluent in the language of interfaith conversation,” Toulouse says. “The future of religious understanding depends on it. If we religious people don’t take the lead,who will?”
i.e: “IF WE DON’T RUSH IN FIRST, SOME OTHER FOOLS WILL BEAT US TO IT!”
“SUBMIT! THERE – WE’RE SAFE NOW! WHEW!”
IMAM YASIN DWYER IS TELLING A STORY to 300 inmates at Joyceville penitentiary in kingston, Ontario. Framed by a white cap and scarf, his handsome face radiates with *ihsan,* or intention, the mystical inner dimension of his faith.
His story is about a common man smitten by a princess. The man visits a sage who instructs him to live like a monk in the woods for 10 years before returning to ask the king for the princess’s hand. When the man does so, the king is so impressed that he consents.
THAT’S FUNNY – WHY WOULD A FOLLOWER OF THE PERFECT PROPHET (AND MULTI-RAPIST SEX-MANIAC) ADVISE LIVING LIKE A MONK, WITHOUT SEX?!
But the common man is speechless. “For all this time, I pretended to be pious,” he says. “And through my pretending to be pious, I had the king at my feet.” Here Dwyer pauses, grinning. “Imagine. Just imagine what I could have accomplished if I had been sincere.”
OK THE “PRETEND TO BE HOLY” PART DOES KINDA FIT IN WITH ISLAM! POINTLESS AS USUAL!
It’s another day of work for Dwyer, the only full-time Muslim chaplain serving 11 federal jails in Ontario and about 400 Muslim convicts – a number that’s growing all the time. “We are pioneers,” he acknowledges. “We are the first group of Muslim chaplains who are trying to define what it means to be a chaplain of the Muslim faith.”
For Dwyer, interfaith dialogue is not just an exercise in “feel-good tolerance,” but a calling and a job requirement. Even with his enormous Muslim caseload, Dwyer aspires to be “a universal figure” who can serve people of different faith backgrounds, a principle he says he adopted from Christian mentors such as United Church prison chaplain Rev. Ian Davis-Young.
In 2009, Dwyer attended two planning meetings for the nascent Muslim studies program. “To me, it looks very, very positive,” he says. “It would serve the Muslim community to support this, get involved and respect what the program is trying to do.”
Walid Saleh, a Muslim scholar who teaches the Qur’an in the Canadian Context, says Muslim chaplains have very little support in Canada. “Really, they’re like, floating,” he says, adding that the Emmanuel program represents a “laudable effort” to lend structure and focus to the emerging field of Muslim spiritual care work.
Reda suggests the program’s chaplaincy component also presents a rare opportunity for Muslim women, who are barred from acting as imams in most mosques. “It’s very exciting and very historic,”‘ says Reda, a member of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, which supports the program.
If all goes according to plan, Emmanuel should be churning out Muslim chaplains in a few short years. The college has already hired a distinguished visiting professor of Muslim studies on a three-year contract, and this fall, Toulouse will propose a master of pastoral studies track for Muslims who want to work as chaplains. A new multifaith council currently in the works will certify the graduates to work in hospitals, prisons, universities and the Canadian Forces.
AFTER A BRIEF ARTICLE about the new program appeared in the March issue of this magazine, several readers wrote letters in protest. “The lack of training for Muslim chaplaincy in Canada is not the responsibility of the United Church,” wrote one. Another said, “The college has begun to measure its significance by access to a growing immigrant population.” A third worried that Mission and Service funds were being used to support the program, which is not the case – the Canadian Dawn Foundation (a Muslim charity) and private donors have footed the bill.
SAUDI MONEY NO DOUBT UNDERMINING CHRISTIANITY AS EVER!
Geoff Wilkins, chair of the National Alliance of Covenanting Congregations, a Theologically conservative group within the United Church, rejects the program on the grounds that Muslims and Christians do not worship the same God. “Jesus would not have said his father was the same as Allah,” Wilkins says from his home in North Vancouver, where he has been a member of North Lonsdale United since the 1950s. “Ergo, you are misleading the people.” He cites John 14:6, in which Jesus is quoted as saying, “No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Wilkins says he supports dialogue among different faith groups but feels Emmanuel has gone too far. He also says those who share his point of view are harassed and labelled “fundamentalist” for defending what they feel is the basis of the faith.
To Wilkins, the program represents a shallow attempt to attract more warm bodies and money to Emmanuel.
Toulouse admits registrations at Emmanuel are “declining some,” but insists “this is not a solution to that issue” because the program will not boost numbers much anyway. The first two classes in the certificate program attracted a total of 43 students who paid $300 each intuition.
HABEEB ALLI SAYS MOST MUSLIMS have received the program well. But then Islam, founded in the seventh century, recognizes Christianity as part of its spiritual heritage. for Muslims, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad are of “one spiritual family,” as one imam put it. “The Prophet Muhammad allowed Christians to pray in his own mosque in Medina,” another pointed out.
NOW THAT IS A TOTAL LIE! MUHAMMAD ETHNICALLY CLEANSED (GENOCIDED) ALL THE NON-MUSLIMS OUT OF THE ENTIRE ARABIAN PENINSULA “FOREVER!”
Muslims I spoke to said many imams desperately need training to adapt to the new challenges they face in Canada. The Muslim population in this country is extremely young, with a median age of 28 years. It’s also disunited, mostly hailing from South Asia, East and North Africa, the Middle East and the West Indies. Imams are leading young and fragmented congregations while they themselves adjust to Canadian culture. “We don’t have a lot of imams who are sensitive to the cultural rhythm in Canada,” says Dwyer, himself the son of Jamaican immigrants.
AH – I THOUGHT HE WAS BUT A DRUNKEN IRISH FOOL, BUT IT SEEMS HE’S A RACIST BLACK ONE!
Adds Alli, who grew up in Guyana, “I know of the challenges our imams face in dealing with contemporary issues…. So I’ve seen it as my mandate to give them a program that exposes them to the Canadian context and makes them proud of who they are.”
IN THE FRONT FOYER of Emmanuel College, visitors are greeted by nine portraits of the school’s past principals – all white, all male, all Christian.
OH – WELL THAT MAKES THEM ALL MISOGINIST RACIST BIGOTS, BY IMPLICATION, I GUESS! SUBMIT!
But down the hall in Room 108, one finds the most astonishing diversity, from the Azerbaijani-Canadian woman in the golden head scarf and the young South Asian with the long beard and white skullcap to the fourth-generation Canadian minister in blue jeans.
They are learning about Islam and health care, but they are also learning how to communicate in a new language for a new era. “We are building friendships and trust across faiths, not just socially, but connecting at the very heart of our beings,” says Reda.
Whatever anyone else may say, the students clearly love their class and their teacher, Nazila Isgandarova.
“She always seems to get us going,” says Sister Jessica Kennedy. “I find it very enlightening. I’d like to continue reading more.” Imam Mustaq Shaikh of Scarborough, Ontario, calls the program “brilliant” and says he plans to enrol in Isgandarova’s next class, Family Counselling, starting in January. Students rave about Saleh, too. “He makes you love it. He holds the Qur’an to his chest as he walks around,” says student Nina Khaled. “After taking his course, I have to learn more.”
AND NOW, LET’S RE-INTRODUCE ONE OF THE BIGGEST MUSLIM LIARS AND SLANDERERS OF ALL TIME:
Palestinian-American author Edward Said wrote that scholars have often stressed racial, ethnic and national distinctions when they could just as easily engage “the common enterprise of promoting human community.”
Toulouse channels Said when he says the new program is an attempt “to participate in the creation of a better public life for everyone.”
These are challenging times for Canadian Muslims and for The United Church of Canada. A clear, compelling vision for the future of both groups is at a premium.
WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT EVEN MEAN? “THEY NEED A COVER ALIBI AND WE NEED THE MONEY?”!
“In many ways, we are evolving toward shaping a Muslim-Canadian identity;’ Reda says. Emmanuel College is helping foster that evolution, and the United Church might just see its own identity change as a result.
YEAH – FUNNY THING: I BET IT *WILL* SEE IT’S (CURRENTLY STILL CHRISTIAN) IDENTITY CHANGE (TO A COMPLETELY MUSLIM ONE) WHEN IT “SUBMITS” TO ISLAM!
Drew Halfnight is a freelance writer in Toronto.
DREW HALFWIT IS HALF A MOON-WORSHIPPING LUNATIC, TO HAVE PENNED SUCH PROPAGANDA DRIVEL!
HERE – I’LL SAVE THEM THE TIME AND MONEY, BY SIMPLY EXPLAINING ISLAM IN IT’S NUTS’ HELL:
ISLAM IS SLANDER. AND IT’S SLANDER WHICH INCITES HATRED AND VIOLENCE AGAINST ALL NON-MEMBERS OF ITS GANG.
IT’S ALL ABOUT US-VERUS-THEM AND MIGHT-MAKES-RIGHT, THE ENDS JUSTIFY THE MEANS, AND THE BEST DEFENSE IS A GOOD OFFENSE.
ISLAM SAYS ALL NON-MUSLIMS ARE EVIL AND SO MUST BE EXTORTED, ENSLAVED, RAPED AND MURDERED.
IT OFFERS NO DEFENSE OF TRUTH TO THIS THREAT, NO EVIDENCE, JUST:
“MOE SAYS ALLAH SAYS SO!”
To comment on this story, go to:
…but don’t expect them to leave any of your comments up – they rabidly censor everything that has even the slightest whiff of objective Truth in it:
An undercurrent of fear
By David Wilson
A couple of months ago, we ran a cover story on the start of a new Muslim studies program at the United Church’s largest theological school, Emmanuel College in Toronto. You may have noticed that the story generated a lot of reader response in our letters to the editor section and on our website.
What you didn’t see were the letters we couldn’t print. There were a couple dozen of them, and most could be filed under “Islamophobia.” They made their points in different ways, but running through almost all of them was an undercurrent of fear: fear of difference, fear of change, fear of lost privilege.
I do not question the right of readers to weigh in on the subject, nor, I suppose, do I question the right of anyone to hold views that I deem offensive. However, respecting the right to hold those views is one thing; disseminating them is a different matter. A couple of the letters we received probably crossed the line into the Criminal Code’s definition of hate-mongering.
From the controversy over the construction of an Islamic centre and mosque near Ground Zero in New York to a surge in racist violence and xenophobic political movements in Europe, anti-Islamic sentiment is on the rise. It may not be as pronounced here as elsewhere — the recent election of Naheed Nenshi as mayor of Calgary was a huge win for Canadian multiculturalism — but it exists nevertheless. The other day in a convenience store, I witnessed a couple of young louts berating the man behind the counter with racist slurs about 9-11. His shrug as they left said it all: it wasn’t the first time something like this had happened.
Islamophobia is like a spreading virus, and while a couple of dozen letters don’t make an epidemic, our experience with the Muslim studies story suggests that no corner of society is completely immune. We tend to dwell on the differences between people rather than the things we hold in common. So maybe we could be more attentive to the subtle ways bigotry is allowed to take root in our midst.
Most of us abhor bigotry in all its forms. When it has a religious dimension, like Islamophobia, people of faith who truly follow the commandment to love thy neighbour are called to action. What better time to step up than Christmas? Moderator Mardi Tindal’s Christmas message about the rich and joyful relationship between a United Church minister and an imam in a small city in southwestern Ontario should provide all the inspiration you need. In this season of giving, in this time of mounting intolerance, perhaps the best gifts we can offer are understanding, respect and friendship.
In November, subscribers in Ontario received a Christmas catalogue from World Vision Canada. A few of you raised concerns about it. To be clear, accepting advertising does not imply we endorse it, nor does it imply that The United Church of Canada endorses it (and in this case, it emphatically does not). This catalogue was paid advertising accepted by The Observer, which operates independently of The United Church of Canada.
David Wilson is the editor-publisher of The Observer.
ACTUALLY, DAVE, MANY IF NOT MOST OF THOSE COMMENTS CAME FROM ME, AND I CAN ASSURE MY READERS HERE THAT THEY DEFINITELY WEREN’T BASED ON: “fear of difference, fear of change, fear of lost privilege.” MAYBE BASED ON FEAR OF BEHEADING. OR FEAR OF BEING ENSLAVED OR FIRE-BOMBED “FOR ALLAH.”
NOR WAS IT A CASE OF “What you didn’t see were the letters we couldn’t print” BECAUSE “I do not question the right of readers to weigh in on the subject, nor, I suppose, do I question the right of anyone to hold views that I deem offensive. However, respecting the right to hold those views is one thing; disseminating them is a different matter. A couple of the letters we received probably crossed the line into the Criminal Code’s definition of hate-mongering.” REALLY, DAVE? IF SO, THEN WHAT RIGHT DID YOU HAVE TO DELETE THEM (DESTROY EVIDENCE)? ADMIT IT – YOU’RE A HATERFUL RACIST BIGOT AGAINST FREE SPEECH AND A WILLING ACCESSORY AND ENABLER OF THE GLOBAL ISLAMIC CRIME-SPREE; A TRAITOR TO RATIONALITY AND CIVILIZATION!
AND HERE’S A BASIC PRIMER IN “CHRISLAM:”
HEY EVERYBODY! Let’s compare Jesus and Moe, the Founders of their respective creeds!! (Here’s my Top Ten, just off the top of my head!):
1. How many babies did Jesus rape?
2. How many slaves did Jesus take (and rape)?
3. How many innocent merchants did Jesus torture, to get their treasure to pay his bandit armies?
4. How many bandit armies did Jesus lead, and how many countries did they invade & enslave?
5. How many poisoned swords named “Death!” did Jesus own and use to behead enemies?
6. How many times did Jesus lie, say “God is the greatest deceiver!” and rob and extort people?
7. How many people did Jesus burn out of their homes, while they were still asleep in them?
8. How many people (who had only verbally contested his claims) did Jesus put out “hits” on?
9. How many pregnant women did Jesus have run through with swords for doubting him?
…and of course:
10. How many people did Moe heal (or resurrect)?