Canada's longest Muslim conference opens doors to promote multi-faith conversation

(AhlulBayt News Agency) - The Ahmadiyya Muslim community is tackling a number of hot topics this weekend at its annual convention at the International Centre in Mississauga.

Muslims come out to the gathering, dubbed Jalsa Salana, to socialize, listen to lectures and engage in dialogue about current events affecting their community.

Safwan Choudhry, an event organizer, said it's also an open-door affair that offers non-Muslim Canadians a chance to come and ask any questions they may have.

"There are booths that talk about what's happening geo-politically around the world and in the Middle East, there are exhibitions about how to repel and push back against radicalization, and specific strategies on how we can combat extremism around the world," said Choudhry.

Islamophobia is also a concern, but Choudhry said that it's important to note that not only are hate crimes up against Muslims but also against the Jewish and Christian communities and that is indicative of a growing intolerance against religious communities on the whole.

That, says Choudhry, is one of the reasons why the community is promoting multi-faith conversations at the convention.

"We had some Buddhist communities, a priest from the Catholic church, some Sikhs and Hindus were here. We realize that it's a multi-faith approach that we have to take" he said.

Henna Malik is the spokesperson for Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama'at. She said the event also helps to dismiss the stereotype of Muslim women not taking an active role in the community.

"The largest attendees here are actually women. They're executing their own programs, they have their own executives, so they're really taking a leadership role here," she said.

Navdeep Bains, the federal minister of innovation, science and economic development, is one of those attending the conference. Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau have both attended the event in the past.

Attal Hamid has attended the conference for 24 years. He said that he's happy that politicians come out to the event because "when any event happens in the world, they'll know what side we're on. They know that we're promoting peace and trying to prevent acts of violence from happening."

Hamid adds: "It's important for everyone to be educated; us about other religions and if you don't have a religion then, your ideology and for others to learn about our religion. That's how everyone can exist in peace."

Over 20,000 people are expected to show up at the conference this weekend.

Organizers say the conference is growing fast and that they're looking to relocate to a bigger venue to potentially accommodate up to 50,000 participants in future years.



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