Conference to promotes understanding of Islam in Saskatoon, Canada

With Saskatoon playing host to an increasing number of newcomers, a new conference is trying to promote a better understanding of Muslim refugees.

The two-day event, called Islam on the Prairies, continues Saturday at the University of Saskatchewan.

Conference participants will hear from Saskatoon Police, the Open Door Society and local academics.

Naqaa Abbas is a scholar of Islam and one of the conference organizers.

In an interview on CBC Radio’s Saskatoon Morning, Abbas said there are a lot of misunderstandings that the conference is looking to address.

“I’m sure there are lots of incidents where there are miscommunications, misunderstandings, something lost in translation,” she said.

Abbas said that it’s not true that new Muslims to Canada don’t want to integrate or that they are not willing to accept Canadian culture.

Abbas pointed to an Environics survey that recently came out, and said the survey suggests “the Muslim community here wants to integrate, both culturally and also linguistically, as much as they can.”

When asked how proud they were to be Canadian, an average of 83 per cent of Muslims who responded to the survey said they were “very proud.”

Abbas said she hopes the conference brings discussion about unity, pluralism and tolerance, especially as Saskatchewan continues to welcome newcomers.

“I think Saskatoon is going to see even more changes happening within the next 10 to 20 years because it’s not just that generation of Syrians, but it’s also their children and grandchildren that are going to be integrating here and going to be living here,” she said.

She said there is already evidence of some of that change happening, including increased interest in learning Arabic.

“I teach Arabic and I am already getting calls from people all over saying ‘where can I take Arabic classes?’ “

The conference continues Saturday with a public discussion forum from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. CST at the Frances Morrison Central Library.

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