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An Interview with Sufi Imam Syed Soharwardy on Canadian Muslim Narratives and Theology (Part Two)

July 15, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 20.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Sixteen)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: July 15, 2019

Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2019

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 2,249

ISSN 2369-6885

Abstract

Sufi Imam Syed Soharwardy is the Founder of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada and the Founder of the Muslims Against Terrorism. He discusses: narratives of Canadian Muslims; certain media outlets or anchors who are fanning the flames of anti-Muslim sentiment; countering hate groups and hate movements; conversations within Islamic theology; leading Sufi scholars; concerns and hopes as we’re moving forward as a country further into 2019; and negotiable and non-negotiable aspects of Islamic theology.

Keywords: Islam, Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, Muslim, Muslims Against Terrorism, Sufi, Syed Soharwardy.

An Interview with Sufi Imam Syed Soharwardy on Canadian Muslim Narratives and Theology: Founder, Islamic Supreme Council of Canada; Founder, Muslims Against Terrorism[1],[2],[3]

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: If you were to relay some stories or narratives in conversation with Canadian Muslims about their own experiences, what would those be? What would their experiences be of a rise of hate crimes, of the experiences of some Canadian Muslims in Canada?

Imam Syed Soharwardy: With the rise in Islamophobia and hate crimes, we still believe Canada is the best country on the planet. We believe in the Canadian system and the Canadian leaders, whether the background is religious or ethnic.

It is a place where people of faith and non-faith can come together and live in peace and harmony. There are some people who come and spread hate, who are in the minority. Unfortunately, hate and violence are more viable than love and peace. The stories of this country for Canadian Muslims is that we live in the best country; that God has blessed us with a place like Canada as a home.

2. Jacobsen: Are there certain media outlets or anchors who are fanning the flames of anti-Muslim sentiment? Or is this something simply coming out in the media more?

Soharwardy: Yes, I know there are some outlets. I don’t want to give them an advertisement.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Soharwardy: I have confronted them. They have confronted me, in the past. They dislike Islam anywhere. No matter how good a Muslim becomes. They hate him, or her. In the past, when I had to face these people, they are 25 or 30 people at most.

They were putting anti-Muslim comments on websites. They are very active. It looks like a lot. But no, they are very small. We have seen the Yellow Vest movement in Canada. The Yellow Vest movement was all about the economic prosperity and the crunch Canada is facing, as in France.

Those kinds of things have all symptoms of being frustrated within the nation; thus, they became anti-immigrant. Those people are very small. They can get into many of the good organizations and then contaminate the whole environment.

But we are not represented by those people. Even though, they cause concern. The majority of Canadians are decent people, tolerant and accepting people. They have no problem with ant segment of the society.

We stand side by side. Those who are hatemongers. We pray for them that God changes their heart.

3. Jacobsen: Who has been important in the efforts to counter hate groups and hate movements, or those who want incite, very consciously, hatred against individuals or groups in this country?

Soharwardy: I think it is at all levels of the government being worked on, as they can. I always say, “They are not doing enough.” But the law enforcement is doing their best to monitor and see those people who are inciting violence against anybody.

They are the ones who have the responsibility to protect all Canadians equally. But the same, Muslims in this place of the world acknowledge the Indigenous peoples have been here since God knows when.

Muslims know the history of this part of the world. Whenever we come, we had to face a hard time. When the Jews came, they had to face a hard time. When the Sikhs from India came, we know what happened to them. When the Japanese came, we know what happened to them.

When the Chinese came, we know what happened to them. We did not face a hard time like the Chinese, Sikhs, Jews, and others, in the past. We were lucky. Civilization has matured. People understand diversity.

There are bad elements that cause racism and violence against minorities anyway.

4. Jacobsen: When it comes to the more advanced and graduate-level, professional theologian levels, of Islam, what is the conversation right now? How are things developing along those more advanced lines? The nuances of the faith being discussed intellectually. I mean the specialist-intellectuals who professionally read, research, and think about Sufi Islam.

Soharwardy: I think it people who research and have a modern interest. People are getting inclined towards the Sufi interpretation of Islam, especially Sunni-Sufi Islam. It focuses on the main meditation and centrality of the person and life of the Prophet (pbuh).

There is quite a bit of research happening in theology departments around the world. There are all levels of degrees offered in many places around the world. There were many Ph.D. students working on various Sufis of Islam and Sufi theology of Islam.

They were doing those things. There was a tremendous interest in the Sufi interpretation of Islam. I am so happy that several bridge-minded academics who used to be in their past life quite supportive of Salafi-Wahabbi school of thought are changing their mind.

I see it in Pakistan, where, in the past, even currently, there is a lot of Saudi influence. It has brought Wahabbism in Afghanistan and Iraq, and elsewhere. People are realizing that this Salafi-Wahabbism is violent, the Devil’s interpretation of Islam.

They are coming back to the Sufi version or interpretation of Islam; that this is the correct or true interpretation of Islam. That is what caused Muslim deaths. We never hated God’s creation. We live in peace with our Christian, Jewish, and other people of different faiths.

They have a different faith than us. They practice their faith. We practice our faith. It depends on the faith. We still love each other as creations of God.

5. Jacobsen: Who would you consider some of the leading Sufi scholars today?

Soharwardy: There are many Sufi scholars, especially in North Africa. There is Shaykh Abdalqadir as-Sufi who is very respected in Morocco. He lives in France. There is the chancellor at Al-Azhar. There are several scholars in Egypt.

I met some scholars in Syria. I met some who came as refugees in Canada. They have been quite intellectual on the Sufi Islam. So, there are many others in Pakistan. There are people who are quite learned people of the Sufi version of Islam.

Shaykh Habib in Yemen, he is a very good Sufi person. There are many in Canada now. It is a growing population around the world.

6. Jacobsen: If we’re now back to Canada rather than the international perspective, as we’re moving more into 2019, what are your concerns and hopes as we’re moving forward as a country further into 2019?

Soharwardy: 2019 is going to be a very important year because there are the federal elections upcoming. We hope that the next government, whoever the government will be, will stay on the path of tolerance and diversity.

That they do not take an extreme path and do not follow the Donald Trump line. Our government in Canada should continue in the way of our traditions. We are peacemakers and not warriors.

We do not get into wars. We work towards peace. This is the stance of Canada in the world. We hope the economic prosperity will continue. In Alberta, we have problems because of this oil price and the pipeline.

I am hoping that because I am Albertan and have been here more than a quarter of a century. It is my home. [Laughing] I would hope the government would realize that it is affecting thousands and thousands of families in Alberta because of this pipeline issue.

It is a survival issue for many, many families. I know many families. They have no jobs. They are hand to mouth. They are below the poverty level. I know how many Muslim families are depending on the food banks.

They can even be professionals. This is the issue in Alberta. I would hope 2019 would bring some senses to the people who are causing these kinds of uncertainties in our country. And that the federal government continues on the path of immigration.

I know Mr. Trudeau stated that they will bring 1,000,000 immigrants in the next 2-4 years. I think this is good for making a good tax base for the government. This is the secret of the United States being the world power. It is immigration.

With Canada, it is on the right path. Hopefully, this continues and the economic prosperity will help each and every Canadian be treated with dignity and respect. I want people to realize that this pipeline issue should be resolved.

It is 2019. I think in British Columbia; they’re seeing this as an environmental issue. We are concerned about it. It is my faith requirement to keep the environment clean because it is God’s gift to us.

We should not be polluting the environment. But there are thousands and thousands and thousands of families who should not be deprived of their basic needs.

7. Jacobsen: Now, if you looked at, let’s say, primary aspects of the faith, and if you looked at secondary aspects of the faith, of the Sufi interpretation of Islam, what is negotiable? What is non-negotiable?

Soharwardy: What is non-negotiable is the teachings of the Holy Quran and the life and teachings of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), those cannot be interpreted. That is totally unacceptable. I will not allow others to misinterpret it, as with this Victoria, B.C. imam. This thing about Christmas.

It is non-negotiable. I am 100% sure that he is wrong. It is against our scriptures. It is against the prophet’s teachings (pbuh). It is against the faith. What is negotiable within the Muslim community, we have been different definitions and different internal positions and perspectives, and way of life, as long as we are law-abiding citizens of this country.

We can accept and disagree. What I cannot accept, violence against innocent people, hatemongering, or rigged and narrow-minded views towards any segment of the society; this goes against basis and the foundation of my society.

This is what the Sufis always believe. You have to always believe to accept diversity and acceptance. You have to understand all humanity has created differences intentionally, not all people are the same. The Quran says that God created us different nations, and colours, and peoples so that we can unite. This has to happen.

This is the Sufi tradition, which is the basic Islamic tradition.

8. Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Imam Soharwardy.

Soharwardy: Thank you very much, Scott, thank you very much, bye.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Founder, Islamic Supreme Council of Canada; Founder, Muslims Against Terrorism.

[2] Individual Publication Date: July 15, 2019: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-sufi-imam-syed-soharwardy-on-canadian-muslim-narratives-and-theology-part-two/; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2019: https://in-sightjournal.com/insight-issues/.

[3] Image Credit: Imam Syed Soharwardy.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. An Interview with Sufi Imam Syed Soharwardy on Canadian Muslim Narratives and Theology (Part Two) [Online].July 2019; 20(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-sufi-imam-syed-soharwardy-on-canadian-muslim-narratives-and-theology-part-two/.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2019, July 15). An Interview with Sufi Imam Syed Soharwardy on Canadian Muslim Narratives and Theology (Part Two)Retrieved from http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-sufi-imam-syed-soharwardy-on-canadian-muslim-narratives-and-theology-part-two/.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. An Interview with Sufi Imam Syed Soharwardy on Canadian Muslim Narratives and Theology (Part Two). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 20.A, July. 2019. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-sufi-imam-syed-soharwardy-on-canadian-muslim-narratives-and-theology-part-two/>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2019. “An Interview with Sufi Imam Syed Soharwardy on Canadian Muslim Narratives and Theology (Part Two).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 20.A. http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-sufi-imam-syed-soharwardy-on-canadian-muslim-narratives-and-theology-part-two/.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “An Interview with Sufi Imam Syed Soharwardy on Canadian Muslim Narratives and Theology (Part Two).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 20.A (July 2019). http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-sufi-imam-syed-soharwardy-on-canadian-muslim-narratives-and-theology-part-two/.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2019, ‘An Interview with Sufi Imam Syed Soharwardy on Canadian Muslim Narratives and Theology (Part Two)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 20.A. Available from: <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-sufi-imam-syed-soharwardy-on-canadian-muslim-narratives-and-theology-part-two/>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2019, ‘An Interview with Sufi Imam Syed Soharwardy on Canadian Muslim Narratives and Theology (Part Two)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 20.A., http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-sufi-imam-syed-soharwardy-on-canadian-muslim-narratives-and-theology-part-two/

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “An Interview with Sufi Imam Syed Soharwardy on Canadian Muslim Narratives and Theology (Part Two).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 20.A (2019):July. 2019. Web. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-sufi-imam-syed-soharwardy-on-canadian-muslim-narratives-and-theology-part-two/>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. An Interview with Sufi Imam Syed Soharwardy on Canadian Muslim Narratives and Theology (Part Two)[Internet]. (2019, July 20(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-sufi-imam-syed-soharwardy-on-canadian-muslim-narratives-and-theology-part-two/.

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Based on a work at www.in-sightjournal.com.

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© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 2012-2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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