Editor’s note: Following is the second in a series on the Inter-Faith Bridging Project, launched in the fall by the Vernon and District Immigrant Services Society.
Naseem Chaudhry was pleased to be approached to represent the Vernon Muslim Association for the Inter-Faith Bridging project. The project was developed by the Vernon and District Immigrant Services Society to rediscover ways that different faiths can unite people and overcome stereotypes.
“Nola (Dibski, one of the people involved in planning) taught my grandpa English when he came from Pakistan. I could see that this would be an amazing idea to connect with other faiths,” said Chaudhry, who, with her husband, Khalid Chaudhry, is a member of the Vernon Muslim Association.
The association has built the first mosque in the Okanagan with the support of the 40 Muslim families in the area and other Muslim communities in Canada.
“Our family was one of the first Muslim families to come to Vernon in 1971,” said Chaudhry, owner of Bollywood Beauty, at The Great Escape Hair Salon in Vernon, and in Kelowna.
“It was difficult at first but I did find friends who were accepting. It has been much different for my sons, who are VSS grads and have friends of all backgrounds.”
Chaudhry has found that people do not know much about Islam, even though about one billion people from a vast range of races, nationalities and cultures around the world are Muslims. About 18 per cent of Muslims live in what is called the Arab world, while the world’s largest Muslim community is in Indonesia.
“Islam is a complete way of life. We are very fortunate that we can practise our religion here. I think that many misconceptions about all religions can be cleared up by the Inter-Faith Bridging project,” she said.
Islam, together with Christianity and Judaism, go back to the prophet Abraham, and their three prophets are directly descended from his sons — Muhammad from the elder son, Ishmael, and Moses and Jesus from the younger son, Isaac.
“Islam is a religion of peace and forgiveness. Muslims make no division between secular and sacred. The divine law for how we should live is given in the Qur’an,” said Chaudhry.
The Inter-Faith Bridging project has a number of activities planned, including a series of art workshops open to the community in January and February led by people from different faith communities. They will talk about their faiths and demonstrate customs from their cultures. Chaudhry will show how Muslim women dress traditionally and the meaning of each item of clothing, as well as how henna is used in her culture.
“When we can try different foods, shop at different stores, experience different art and music and learn about different religions and cultures, then we are all richer for that,” she said. “Everyone is so happy to be able to share and learn amongst each other and become friends. Imagine how nice that will be for all of us.”
The Inter-Faith Bridging project Round Table Forum takes place Jan 15 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. discussing creative dialogue between faiths.
As Muslims say when they meet one another, “Assalam-ali-kum,” (may peace be upon you). The reply is the same, “Assalam-ali-kum.”
For more information about the Inter-Faith Bridging project and its activities, or to take part in the round table or other aspects of the project, call 250-542-4612 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.