Delegation of British Muslims visits York

On March 22, a high-level delegation of British Muslims, along with members of the British Foreign Office and the British consulate in Toronto, met York University professors and researchers involved with the Muslim Diaspora research project at York.  

The Muslim Diaspora project is a SSHRC/MCRI (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada under the Major Collaborative Research Initiatives Program) initiative.

Dean Rhonda Lenton, of the Atkinson Faculty of Liberal and Professional Studies, welcomed the British delegation to York.  They then met York Professors Haideh Moghissi, of the School of Social Sciences at Atkinson; Saeed Rahnema, director of the School of Public Policy and Administration at Atkinson, and Mark Goodman, of the School of Social Sciences at Atkinson.

Representatives of several York student groups, including the Muslim Student Association, Shalom-Salam @ York and Muslim Students for Justice and Peace, were also in attendance.

The British delegation included the chief executive of British Muslim Forum, one of the main Muslim umbrella organizations in the UK; the founder of the Green Light Muslim Youth Forum based in Dudley in the West Midlands, England; the president of the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS); a contributing editor at Q-News, Britain’s leading Muslim current-affairs magazine; and several other prominent members of UK Muslim organizations.

The York researchers discussed some of the main findings of their research project, while the UK visitors presented their views about the key issues of concern to Muslims in Britain, such as social and economic discrimination and extremism.

Through the exchange of ideas, the participants noted interesting similarities and differences between Muslims in Canada and in the UK.  Muslims in Canada are younger, more educated, and more heterogeneous in terms of ethnic and national origin than in the UK. Yet, both groups suffer from discrimination, particularly after the 9-11 terrorist attacks on the United States and terrorist actions in Britain in July, 2005.

In confirming the perception that Canadian society is generally more tolerant than British society, the delegation shared their observation that Toronto Muslims also seem to be less rigid than their counterparts in London.  The Muslim communities’ responsibility in the integration process and the situation of youth in particular were also discussed.

In addition to meeting members of the York University community, the delegation also met representatives from a variety of Canadian community organizations as well as some government agencies, law enforcement authorities, NGOs, Muslim associations and mosques in Toronto, to learn about the Canadian experience with integration and outreach projects.