(June 9, 2010) – Canadian government agencies should recognise the role Mosques are playing in providing services to the community and integrating Muslims into Canadian society, according to the Tessellate Institute (TTI) in a recently released policy brief.
The brief, authored by Dr. Katherine Bullock, recommends ‘that Canadian governmental agencies, while recognising the importance of government neutrality with respect to the separation of Church and State, nonetheless, play a visionary role by promoting mosques as ideal sites both for incorporating their congregants into the fabric of Canadian society, as well as for providing services for the wider Canadian society.’
TTI is a private, not-for-profit, research institute that aims to provide Canadian policymakers and the general public academically-rigorous research about policy relevant issues, particularly on topics pertaining to ethnic and religious minorities.
According to TTI, much of the fear of mosques is based on speculation and widespread negative stereotypes about conservative Muslims.
“Such assumptions that are not supported by social scientific evidence will only alienate Muslims and will not assist in their integration in Canadian society,” the report states.
Based on an oral history project of Toronto’s first mosque, which existed from 1961 to 1968 (www.mosqueone.com), the Tessellate Institute policy brief contains six recommendations that all orders of Canadian government (Federal, Provincial and Municipal) provide material and non-material support to mosque associations for their non-religious activities designed to assist in immigrant integration.
The policy brief recommends Canadian governments (Federal, Provincial and Municipal), without impeding the independence of mosque associations:
1) Play a visionary role in assisting the wider Canadian community overcome its apprehension of mosques. Obviously, while a neutral government cannot give funds to mosques for their religious activities, funding can be given for immigrant settlement services;
2) Aim for program partnerships with mosques that already render immigrants settlement assistance, such as employment services; food bank; housing assistance; English/French classes; pre-school, women’s and youth groups; marriage counselling; tax assistance; and tutoring;
3) Use such partnerships to create competency and expertise amongst mosque staff and volunteers in service delivery. Measures can be placed to create accountability, cost effectiveness, and transparency of funds received. Such partnerships will also contribute to civic responsibility in mosque communities;
4) Support mosque associations in non-material ways, by showing disapproval of anti-mosque discourses in the media;
5) Celebrate the diversity of Canada’s mosque communities as a microcosm of Canada’s multicultural ideals, to contradict public discourse that singles out Muslims as not sharing Canadian values;
6) Be impartial and even-handed between the wide spectrum of Canadian mosque associations, and not support only a few select Muslim groups.