Managing Editor’s note: all Contributing Scholars begin writing by answering the following question as their first post: Why are you committed to building relationships with those from different religious or ethical traditions? Their answer to this question is below.
As a Shia Ismaili Muslim, I belong to a community that is a minority not only within the Ummah, but also within the Shia sect. As a religious education teacher for the Ismaili Tariqah Religious and Education Board of Canada one of my main goals has been instilling a sense of pride and confidence in articulating their ‘pluralistic identity’ amongst youth. All adolescents, given their stage of development, are still shaping and formulating their identities. And while some educational theorists suggest that young adulthood is the time where identity becomes fixed, I tend to align more with scholars such as Erik Erickson (1980) whose perspective is that identity is fluid and constantly changing. In this regard, fostering ongoing dialogue around issues of belonging and current challenges facing persons of faith becomes increasingly important.
Beyond my role as a religious education teacher, I am a first year PhD student in the Faculty of Education at McGill University. As a doctoral student pursuing work around the complexities of neutrality in the professional-epistemological stance of religious education teachers, I strive to show that faith and secularism are not two dichotomized entities. In Quebec especially, the context in which I am studying, there has been much debate around what role religion plays in public life. Imposing a sense of “secular and religious neutrality” upon persons of faith and civil servants in Quebec only serves to increase this divide and perpetuate stereotypes. Ultimately we have a society existing on the ideas of heuristic availability, which only further marginalizes minorities.
Beyond these two roles of religious education teacher and doctoral student I am committed to fostering dialogue around these important issues as a human being. The Qur’an says,
O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. Lo! the noblest of you, in the sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. Lo! Allah is Knower, Aware. (49:13)
Having completed a Bachelors of Education in Global and International Education, this verse rings true. I feel we must go beyond simple acceptance and tolerance to respect for diversity and foster an ethic of pluralism. Without open dialogue we cannot begin to identify with each other based on similarities rather than difference. I am saddened by the events in Quebec given the recent proposal for the Charter of Values. This is not the society I wish to live in nor do I wish us to move in this direction anywhere else in the world. For this reason, I feel it is my responsibility to help inspire positive thought and action around me.