Shaikh Ahmad Kutty with students

(April 20, 2011) –  French Muslim students visiting Toronto on an exchange program were impressed with Canada’s openness and the freedom of religious expression afforded to Canadian Muslims.

“We are very surprised at the freedom and openness of Canadian society,” said Latifa Tazi, one of the students. “Muslims are able to practice their faith without difficulties, unlike in France where Muslims are often the target of discriminatory policies.”

The Islamic Institute of Toronto (IIT) has been hosting ten adult students from the French Institute of Islamic Sciences (IFESIInstitut Français des Etudes et Sciences Islamiques) over the past two weeks.

The students were part of an educational and cultural exchange examining how Muslims live as a minority in Canada and exploring some of Ontario’s landmarks.

Last evening, the students struggled to restrain their emotions as they bade farewell to their host families and the Muslim community in Scarborough that hosted them.

“This exchange program has opened up many possibilities for engagement with Muslims in the international community,” said Farhad Khadim, Director of Education at the Islamic Institute of Toronto. “It is an opportunity to show the world that there is a model of Muslim presence in Canada that respects both the Islamic traditions and the obligations of citizenship, both of which are necessary for a constructive integration of Muslims in the West.”

Shaikh Abdool Hamid with students

The students, all French-born of Algerian, Moroccan, Tunisian and Malian heritage spent their time in Canada in an intensive education program which included short courses in the Fiqh (Jurisprudence) of Priorities and Hadith Methodology, as well as seminars and presentations on Islamic Art and Calligraphy, Media in Canada, Lessons on Leadership, Islamic Law and Muslim Minorities and took part in a lively discussion on the uprisings in the Arab World.

Members of the group included an architectural engineer, a nurse, a social worker, a high-school teacher as well as University students.

All are studying at the French Islamic Institute of Islamic Sciences in Paris.

The students visited several attractions including the CN Tower, Royal Ontario Museum, the Ontario Science Centre and the Toronto Zoo.

They also visited Mount Royal in Montreal, the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa and the University of Ottawa where they engaged in discussions with members of the Muslim Students Association of the University of Ottawa.

A visit to ISNA headquarters and Syeda Khadija Centre in Mississauga capped a very interesting two-week period for both the students and the IIT.

“IIT wishes to express its deepest gratitude to host families, scholars, teachers and presenters of the education program, Islamic associations that welcomed the students and provided interesting perspectives of the services they provide, and the many people who gave their time freely for the successful execution of the program,” said Farhad Khadim.

Dawood Zwink with students