University of Toronto Muslim students joined in the Muslims for White Ribbon Campaign and held a teach-in on Thursday evening to raise awareness about violence against women in Canada.
“The Muslim Students Association (MSA) is proud to present the Muslims for White Ribbon Campaign initiative,” stated the Community Affairs Committee of MSA. “The panel discussion is being held to deal with the role, perception and status of women in Islam and raise awareness about violence against women.”
The White Ribbon Campaign is the largest grassroots effort in the world of men working to end violence against women.
“This campaign allows Muslim Canadians to reflect on the reality of violence against women,” said panelist Muneeb Nasir, Co-Chair of the Muslims for White Ribbon Campaign and President of the Olive Tree Foundation. “We hope to challenge everyone, especially men and boys, to speak out and think about their own beliefs, language and actions.
Other panelists included Amjad Tarsin, U of T Muslim Chaplain; Farheen Khan of Interim Place; Farrah Khan of the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic; and Mohamed Awad of Civic Muslims.
“Violence against women has multiple layers,” said Farheen Khan, Manager of Development at Interim Place which provides shelter and support services for women in Peel Region. “We must take a stand against it, acknowledge it exists and vocalize the issue.”
She outlined the various services provided to women facing violence by organizations such as Interim Place. These include an emergency shelter, community support and outreach programs, and a 24-hour crisis line. Since 1981 Interim Place has assisted well over 38,000 women and children find safety, heal and build new lives free of violence.
Another panelist, Farrah Khan, a Counselor and Advocate at the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic, outlined the Outburst! program, an initiative sponsored by the Clinic. The Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic is a specialized clinic for women experiencing violence
“Outburst! is a program for young Muslim women in Toronto who are breaking silence and speaking out about violence,” she said.
Farrah Khan is a nationally recognized public speaker and educator on violence against women including forced marriage and “honour” related violence.
Outburst! offers individual counseling for young Muslim women facing family violence, including forced marriage, family conflict, and stalking and harassment; training for institutions and service providers, helping them to better meet the needs of young Muslim women facing forced marriage, family violence and systemic oppression; and offering arts-related groups for young Muslim women in Toronto.
Both Farheen Khan and Farrah Khan spoke of their experiences in dealing with women in abusive relationships and the challenges faced in providing them support.
Muneeb Nasir, Co-Chair of the Muslims for White Ribbon Campaign, gave the audience an overview of the Campaign and its objectives.
“One of the primary objectives of the Muslims for White Ribbon Campaign is to bring the moral authority of Muslim religious leaders to condemn violence against women and to say clearly that this has nothing to do with our religion,” he said. “The Campaign is, primarily, targeted to men and boys asking them to step up and step forward by taking a personal pledge to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women and girls.”
Amjad Tarsin, the Muslim Chaplain at the University of Toronto, asked the students to reflect on the example of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be on him.
“We must look at the Prophet – his character – and the mercy and love that he taught,” he said. “We need to have a conversation on how we understand his message.”
“Violence against women is an extremely important and timely topic for the Muslim community,” he added. “For a long time, it has been brushed under the rug.”
Mohamed Awad, Founder of CivicMuslims and a Co-Chair of the Muslims for White Ribbon Campaign, spoke about lessons to be learned from campaigns and encouraged the students to get involved in ‘ideas for good’ through grassroots activism.
“You should dare to dream and to make a commitment not to live without a dream,” he said. “One day, you will get an idea, such as starting a campaign to end violence against women. Nourish your idea and take small steps to turn it into reality. Change starts at the grassroots and requires patience and persistence.”
CivicMuslims is a Canadian grassroots initiative promoting volunteerism and civic engagement.
Earlier in the week, the MSA had set up an information booth on campus where students were asked to take the Muslims for White Ribbon Campaign pledge to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women and girls.
Further information about the Muslims for White Ribbon Campaign can be found at www.MuslimsforWhiteRibbon.com