(March 5, 2014) – Muslim leaders in the Greater Toronto Area held a networking meeting on Sunday, March 2, in Mississauga to learn about each other’s work and to identify areas of cooperation.
The Olive Tree Foundation, an innovative public endowment foundation that promotes community development and which funds projects for the long-term benefit of the community, organized the meeting.
“The purpose of the meeting is to provide an opportunity for organizations to network and identify areas of collaboration,” Naeem Siddiqi, Olive Tree Foundation’s Vice-President, told the gathering. “We are providing a platform for community leaders to discuss the priorities and challenges faced by non-profit groups working within the Muslim community.”
The meeting consisted of presentations by community organizations and discussions.
The café environment afforded leaders ample opportunities to interact and network with each other.
YTGA’s members introduced their café and organization to the appreciative community leaders.
“Our youth led non-profit organization, YTGA, has been empowering and mobilizing young people for social justice through campaigns, workshops and the arts since 2006,” Yumna Abbas told the audience. “Through the cafe business we are able to run much more programming for many more young people.”
“So we are starting with a café but we really want to see fair trade as a way of life,” noted Yumna Abbas. “This space is open to the community and can be used for campaigns and fund raising events because we want to be a hub for growth.”
“Studio 89 is good for humans, animals, and the planet and we really want to run with that idea and really live it out in our everyday lives,” added YTGA’s Omar Rais.
The work of TICNS (The Intergeneration Community Network Services) was presented by the organization’s Executive Director, Sajeda Khan.
“Our vision is to create a society where diverse people of all ages understand and respect one another through shared activities and engagement,” Sajeda Khan. “The current program we have is the craft club and this is exactly where the Olive Tree Foundation stepped in to fund this project.”
“The craft club allows senior and newcomer women within Flemingdon and Thorncliffe to gather around a common activity, such as sewing, and with a safe and comfortable outlet to express themselves,” added Khan.
The keynote presentation on Muslims in Canada was done by Dr. Keith Neuman of the Environics Institute.
“In 2006, the Environics Institute conducted the first-ever national survey of Muslims in Canada, focusing on the experience of Muslims in this country and drawing comparisons with similar research conducted in 13 other countries by the U.S.-based Pew Research Center,” Keith Neumann, Environics Institute’s Executive Director, told the gathering.
“This research presented a revealing picture of a Muslim community that does in fact strive to be part of broader Canadian society and very happy to be in this country, while at the same time concerned about discrimination and limited economic opportunities,” he added. “This study received broad public exposure through the CBC and helped to create a more positive and accurate narrative about the Muslim community and what it shares with other Canadians.”
The Environics Institute, in partnership with the Tessellate Institute, the Olive Tree Foundation and the Inspirit Foundation, is planning a second national survey of Muslims in 2014 to update the original research and identify both important trends and emerging issues.
During the final roundtable session, all organizations presented a summary of their work and upcoming projects.
“These networking meetings are quite important for community leaders,” said Muneeb Nasir, President of the Olive Tree Foundation, in his closing remarks. “It gives us an opportunity to learn about each other’s organizations and explore avenues for cooperation.”