KHATTAB: We Need to Make Room for People to Change

Khattab responds to earlier columns by Candace Malcolm (Controversial Islamic groups receive Canada Summer Jobs Grants):

In a series of columns published by the SUN this past spring, Candice Malcolm not only made several erroneous claims about Muslim organizations receiving funding from the federal government for Canada’s Summer Jobs grant, but she also did something more deplorable that I feel needs to be talked about.

Like many individuals in these divisive times, she erased the space we must afford people who are willing to change their problematic views.

I have come to terms with and apologized for misinformed and insensitive comments I made about members of the LGBTQ2S community in 2012.

Since that time, I have made concerted and humble efforts to learn more about my unconscious biases and unlearn the incorrect beliefs I had towards individuals who are different from me in the near past.

I have connected with LGBTQ2S people who have graciously been willing to spend time learning from one another about life, culture and faith.

I have started developing more critical awareness of where I get my information and actively seek out new viewpoints, even if I feel uncomfortable.

Through dialogue and actively seeking knowledge, I continue to stand by my faith’s definition of traditional marriage while accepting members of the LGTQ2S as my brothers and sisters in humanity.

This response isn’t about me though. It is about how I was afforded a place where I am able to become more aware and can continue the process of cultivating a more compassionate and accepting ethos.

I wouldn’t have been able to do these things without the space to be humbled and vulnerable about what I do not know.

Confronting deeply entrenched biases and prejudices, as well as understanding our complicity in the systems that cultivate them is a lifelong process – one to which I have made a commitment. It should be a lifelong process because those systems of disenfranchisement are all around us as long as they remain standing; they are immersive.

Malcolm did not leave space for discovery and change. In her articles about me, she purposely left out the years of work I have done and continue to do.

This sends a dangerous message to readers, particularly in politically polarized times. It tells people that if you have a change of heart or you mature in your understanding of society and culture, there are no second chances.

Now, more than ever, we need to give second chances to the remorseful.

As an Imam I live by the principles of my faith – including justice, equality, tolerance, freedoms and human rights – and I have dedicated many years to spreading knowledge, advancing dialogue and supporting families and youth.

Ultimately, people who persist in actively preaching hate speech ought to be unequivocally  condemned outright and/or prosecuted. But if someone accepts the consequences of their past words and actions, and shows they are willing to learn how they were wrong, we must as a society make room for  restorative justice.

It is the health and cohesion of our collective communities that hang in the balance. A place like Canada – while still having its own work to do – has afforded me the humility and vulnerability to admit I should have known better and strive to do better.

It is part of the ideals Canadians should continuously strive towards that makes me proud to live here.

Dr. Mustafa Khattab is a member of the Canadian Council of Imams and a Fulbright Interfaith Scholar. He’s currently the senior Imam of the Anatolia Islamic Centre, Mississauga, Canada.

Source: KHATTAB: We Need to Make Room for People to Change

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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