Walk for Somalia in Toronto

This footage was taken in downtown Toronto by Somali Canadian filmmaker Mona Ismail. She also serves on the Muslim Youth Canada Project’s national youth steering committee.

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Muslim Community Info Session on Domestic Violence, Elder Abuse and Hate Crimes

Muslim Community Info Session on Domestic Violence, Elder Abuse and Hate Crimes

By Sana Siddiqui, Vancouver

June 2010

Domestic Violence is a complex, tragic and underreported crime across all cultures and societies and unfortunately, the Muslim community is no exception. Recent studies have shown that Muslim women suffer from emotional, physical and financial abuse from their husbands and that physical violence occurs in at least 10% of Muslim families in America (Alkhateeb, 1999; Alkhateeb, 2010; Rianon and Sheldon, 2003). On June 26th 2010 the Vancouver Police, Family Services of Greater Vancouver and the Muslim community came together to discuss the programs and services available for victims of domestic violence and their families, elder abuse and hate crime. Around 35 Muslim community members attended this information session at Collingwood Neighbourhood House in Vancouver. Also present were support workers from MOSIAC and Vancouver and Lower Mainland Multicultural Family Services.

Imam Shujaath began the program by emphasizing the Islamic values of compassion, mercy, kindness, patience, restraint of anger and love towards humanity and particularly towards one’s family. The Imam stressed that contemporary social problems are as a result of failure to adhere to a proper Islamic way of life and that their solution lies in returning to the Quran and sunnah, increasing Islamic knowledge and controlling one’s emotions. He clearly stated that abusing family members is not only unIslamic and shameful, but it is the responsibility of those who know about it to confront the abusive behaviour and if necessary, to seek help from family, community and social services.

Next was a presentation about domestic violence from a Vancouver Police Detective and Family Services of Greater Vancouver Counsellor from the Domestic Violence Unit. They explained that they operate under a special partnership in which a police detective investigates, interviews and forms a case for charges to be laid or the case to be dropped. The decision to arrest the aggressor is made only if the police officer has reasonable and probable grounds to believe that an offense occurred and charges are laid upon recommendation by the Crown; these decisions are not in the hands of the victim.

The counsellor, on the other hand, supports the victim through her choices, provides her short term counselling and referrals to community resources that can help keep the victim and the victim’s family safe. She stressed that they work to find resources that are respectful and appropriate to cultural, religious, age and other factors to best support and serve the victim and do not press the victim to make certain choices that are against her preference. Since these victim services counsellors with the Vancouver police are employed by Family Services of Greater Vancouver and not the Vancouver Police, they can offer greater confidentiality to victims. Thus the police detective and counsellor work towards holding the offender accountable and keeping the victim safe in their own roles.

Most domestic cases are handled by general police officers, not the Domestic Violence Unit, which specializes in severe, reoccurring and high-risk cases only. Yet, despite the fact the Domestic Violence Unit only takes the most serious cases, they still handle about 3000-5000 cases a year. You can imagine how many cases are happening in Vancouver alone, let alone across Metro Vancouver, British Columbia and Canada.

A second presentation followed focusing on elder abuse—a newer unit within the Vancouver police comprising of one team of police detective and community counsellor modelled after the Domestic Violence Unit. This unit looks at physical, financial and sexual abuse of elders and neglect. It was truly sad to hear that the majority of their cases are of children or grandchildren abusing their elders. Cases are mainly referred by the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee and Vancouver Coastal Health. In addition to investigating abuse and neglect, holding the offender accountable and protecting the elder, a long term goal of the unit is to bring the offender and victim back together over time and reunite them in a healthy and respectful relationship.

The final presentation was given by Inspector Mario Giardini, the new head of the Diversity and Aboriginal Policing Section of the Vancouver Police. Inspector Giardini explained that under the Criminal Code—hate crimes are not a separate charge but are a factor considered at the time of sentencing. These include criminal offenses committed against a person or property motivated by hate against an identifiable group (such as race, religion, place of origin) and fall into three categories—mischief/vandalism, assaults, uttering threats and hate propaganda. Thus the key factor is that not only did a criminal offense occur, but was it motivated by bias or hate against a specific group. In addition, there are other relevant offenses that could also be considered hate crimes such as advocating genocide and mischief at a place of worship. The Inspector urged the community to report all acts that may fall under these categories so that they can be brought to the attention of the police and action taken.

The event concluded with an opportunity to informally speak with the police members, community victim services workers and community members attending. Materials were available to further explain the services of MOSAIC, Vancouver & Lower Mainland Multicultural Family Services and other community organizations. I personally obtained the contact information of the Victim Services Manager from Family Services of Greater Vancouver and she expressed particular interest in attending a meeting of the local Muslim women’s groups to create programs and services specific to the needs of Muslim clients.

For more information:

VICTIMLINK: 1 800 563 0808
Provides immediate crisis support 24 hours a day 7 days a week. It is confidential, anonymous, multilingual and TTY.

Vancouver Police Department Domestic Violence Unit: 604 717 2653 and Victim Services 604 717 2737
http://vancouver.ca/police/crime-prevention/victim-services/index.html

Family Services of Greater Vancouver: 604 874 2938
Provides various victim and family support services http://www.fsgv.ca/

Vancouver & Lower Mainland Multicultural Family Support Services: 604 436 1025
Provides support in various languages http://www.vlmfss.ca/

MOSAIC: 604 254 9626
Provides support in various languages http://www.mosaicbc.com/

Eco-Muslims Inspired by Muhammad

Building a Place of Peace

Burnaby Now
Published: Wednesday, April 21, 2010

When the Burnaby Mosque and Education Centre at 5060 Canada Way opened in 2009, it was a curious addition to the area.

The main Burnaby fire hall was across one street, while a gas station and strip mall was across another. Burnaby Village Museum was off in the distance, and the never-ending barrage of cars coming on and off the Trans Canada Highway was constant.

But once you step inside the officially named Masjid Al-Salaam and Education Centre – Masjid is Arabic for mosque while Al-Salaam is Arabic for peace – you are transported to another world.

“Every day, we have people who pray towards Mecca five times a day,” said Daud Ali, chairman of the mosque.

The first prayer is at sunrise, and the last one is at night. With the changing seasons, prayer times differ, but an overhead television has the prayer times for people as soon as they enter the mosque.

The mosque, owned by the B.C. Muslim Association, was a labour of love and financial prudence that took more than a decade to complete.

The process began in November 1997, when local Muslims met with then-mayor Doug Drummond and asked for the city’s help in building a mosque in Burnaby. The city’s planning department suggested the current location, which was previously a gas station.

Within 19 months, the land had been rezoned, and, by May 2000, the local Muslim community had started fundraising and doing architectural work on the new site.

“We did not want to go to the banks and be issued a loan with interest,” said Ali. “We did fundraising ourselves, and we had an interest-free line-of-credit from the B.C. Muslim Association.”

Ali admitted that doing it this way meant it would take a long time to build the mosque, but he has absolutely no regrets.

“We wanted to do this right, and that meant being sensible both with the plans for the mosque and with the finances.”

A groundbreaking ceremony was held in November 2000, with excavation and construction beginning in January 2001. Despite complications with the soil on site – the former gas station contributed to the problem – the mosque got its full occupancy permit on Jan. 21, 2009.

“Before we had the mosque, we had to go to the Tri-Cities or we had to use other facilities,” said Ali. “Now that we have a place of our own, it has been very nice.”

Ali pointed out there are more than 10,000 Muslims in Burnaby. On Fridays, when Muslims are required to go to a mosque to pray together, the Burnaby facility averages 750 devout Muslims.

“On Good Friday, we had 1,200 people,” said Ali.

The mosque was able to accommodate that many people because there are multiple prayer rooms. On the main floor, the main prayer hall is for men. On the second floor, the women have their own prayer room. And in a separate room right behind the women’s room is the children’s room, where children can pray. More importantly, the women can pray without having to worry about their children.

“We have a saying that prayer is good, but there is more reward when you pray together,” said Ali.

During the daily prayers, the congregation is asked to pray shoulder-to-shoulder, a task made easier by the fact the carpeting has rectangular squares that mark off separate prayer spots for each person.

Outside of the daily prayer services, the mosque also offers a special room designed for confidential counselling sessions. There are also plans for a youth centre that will be equipped with exercise equipment.

The facility also provides services of a weekend religious school for children who want to learn about the Koran, Hadith (the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad), the basics of Islam and the Arabic language.

The mosque also has established programs for adult education, computer classes and even courses and seminars on healthy cooking and seniors’ health.

The mosque also participates in an interfaith program, where it regularly partners with local churches, such as the Deer Lake United Church, Columbia Bible College and the Ahavat Olam Synagogue for joint events.

But, perhaps the most stunning thing about the mosque is that it is an architectural marvel. It’s hard to miss the minaret that acts as a visual focal point. But, look closer, and faith is literally carved into the walls and railings. “Look up to the second floor where the classrooms are,” said Ali. “You can read the name Allah in the metal railings. “And on the main wall outside, Allah is carved into the wall as well.”

The design of the mosque was so good that the designer, local Muslim architect Sharif Senbel, won numerous awards for his design, including the 2008 Design Merit Award in the Religious Category from the Masonry Institute of British Columbia.

Ali said the congregation has united Muslims from all over the world, as their membership includes people from Fiji, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Turkey, Bosnia, China, Hong Kong, Egypt, Syria, South Africa, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Lebanon and the United Kingdom.

We also believe in giving back to the community,” said Ali. He pointed out that the mosque also provides meat to local soup kitchens and to the Burnaby school district’s hot lunch program.

“We also run our own food bank,” said Ali. “Every week, volunteers distribute groceries to needy families in the mosque’s parking lot. Last December, we donated $15,000 to the Greater Vancouver Food Bank.”

© Burnaby Now 2010

Vancouver Police and Muslim Community

Meeting Announcement:
Vancouver Police Department and Muslim Community

Where and When:
Collingwood Neighbourhood House
5288 Joyce St., Vancouver

JUNE 26th 2010; 2pm to 4pm.

The topics for community discussion will be:
· Domestic Violence,
· Elder Abuse,
· Criminal Harassment,
· Hate Crimes

Refreshments will be served kindly donated by Collingwood Neigbourhood House and the Collingwood Policing Centre. Imam Shujaath of Masjid Al-Haqq will start the events with opening remarks and will be available for questions in addition to the Vancouver Police and Family Services Presenters. Please note this informational event is open to all–brothers and sisters of all backgrounds. Services discussed apply to Vancouver residents.

Event supported by the BCMA, Islamic Information Centre, Family Services of Greater Vancouver, Pakistan Canada Association and Vancouver Police.