By Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi, Imam of the Islamic Shia Ithna-Asheri Jamaat of Toronto
Canada is globally known as a country which recognizes religious and cultural diversity within its society, and expects its citizens to show tolerance and respect towards one another.
The Islamic Shia Ithna-‘Ashari Jamaat of Toronto (ISIJ) has always played a positive role in this regard and has actively engaged in interfaith dialogue and joint activities.
In particular, we are active ongoing members of the MOSAIC Interfaith Group, and have worked with various Public and Catholic high schools in the GTA for more than two decades by hosting between 150 to 200 group visits by non-Muslims students annually at our centre.
We also host new officers of the York Region Police Force in order to build relationships and foster harmony.
In the aftermath of the 9/11 attack, we were the first Islamic organization in Toronto to hold a joint press conference with our neighbouring Jewish Synagogue to condemn the attacks.
We also issued a joint condemnation when a Jewish school in Montreal and an Islamic centre in Pickering was subjected to arson attacks.
Our organization is a founding partner with a Zoroastrian Temple, a Synagogue, and a Church in the Out of the Cold program to provide hot meals and shelter to the homeless during winter months.
Our youth run the annual Ramadhan Campaign Against Hunger to help poor families.
We are also proud to be the joint recipients of the Harmony Award with Temple Har Zion, presented to us in recognition of promoting Canadian values.
Therefore, while the revelation of the existence of inappropriate language used in the material on the East End Madrasah (EEM) website is hurtful to the Jewish community, and an unreserved apology has been offered to them, it was also hurtful to us because we sense that this may have disappointed our fellow citizens who have known us and what we stand for.
The EEM has acknowledged a failure within its internal system that has enabled unauthorized content to be included in the textbook without appropriate review.
We are committed to improve the system to ensure that such mistakes are not repeated.
This is not consistent with the actions of our numerous sub-committees, affiliates, and initiatives that benefit the community, only one of which is the EEM.
As of this moment, we have reached out to the representatives of Jewish organizations and others to work with our community partners to foster better understanding and relationship between the faith groups.
We will also be cooperating with York Region Police and the Toronto District School Board inquiries.
Along with these measures, we are also internally reviewing our policies, procedures, and the curriculum to understand what went wrong, and how to avoid similar incidents in the future.