Recent Interfaith Dialogues
January 21, 2016
I had the pleasure of listening to you (Syed Soharwardy) speak at a smaller gathering in Milton, Ontario on Sunday January 17th. Just wanted to say your speech was very moving and educational and I was very happy to be there to listen. Sorry before you spoke I didn’t even know your name, had to ask someone afterwards. Glad you were able to come to our small town. (Rick, Milton, Ontario)
Date: December 14, 2015
Yesterday, I and several other Muslim leaders attended the celebration of Jewish Hanukah at Beth Tzedec Synagogue in Calgary. During the last five weekends alone I had several Multi-Faith dialogues and discussions. Here is some of the feedback. Due to privacy reasons I have mentioned partial names only.
- “Prof. Soharwardy, I greatly appreciate you speaking your mind, and helping propel a dialogue that can lead us towards a better world. I perceive that you are peaceful, and this means much to me. Thank you for your work, and please keep it up. You are supported by your neighbours.” (Paul ……, December 8, 2015)
- “Dear Syed, Many thanks for your inspiring talk at Living Spirit yesterday. It was very uplifting and was well received by all. I hope we can do it again soon.” (Murray…………, Calgary, December 7, 2015)
- “Dear Syed, Good afternoon! I send along my deepest thanks to you for your presence among us. You brought us face to face with a since of how millions of Muslims are affronted and grieved by the actions of a few fanatics (We have them in Christianity too!)
- We were blessed by your presence among us. Thank you. May Allah bless your work and keep you safe.
Rev. Linda……….., Calgary, December 3, 2015
- “Hi Syed, It is wonderful to hear about your participation at Woodcliff United Church. I appreciate that this is a very difficult time for you given the Paris attacks and misplaced attention on Muslim communities. My wife and I are thinking about you and your congregation at this time. “(Les …….., Calgary, November 30, 2015.
- “Syed, a brief note to express our sincere thanks for taking the time to participate in our worship yesterday at Woodcliff. Your message of hope and understanding between faith groups was pointed, timely and greatly needed as our Congregation moves forward through our season of reflection and celebration. Selfishly, I enjoyed the opportunity to work with you, and look forward to more interactions as we advance the Interfaith build project with Habitat for Humanity. blessings to you in all that you do, (Brian…… , Calgary, November 30, 2015)
- “I wanted to say it was a blessing to hear you speak at our church today and it brought tears to my eyes to see you presented with one of our special prayer shawls. If nothing else, this Christian will continue to believe that we are all in this together and will always believe that it is only together that we can defeat the violence and terrorism in this world. God bless.” (Julie ……, Calgary, November 29, 2015)
- “Shame on whoever is responsible for this senseless attack. This is not what Canada stands for. Prof. Imam Syed Soharwardy has long and tirelessly advocated for peace and condemned violence. To whomever did this despicable act, please leave. You don’t belong here,and you’re wasting space that could be given to a refugee seeking a life of peace. My heart goes out to those, my Calgarian brothers and sisters, who were affected by this crime.” (Christine, Calgary, November 17, 2015)
- “As the term winds down and I work through final papers, I thought I would take a brief moment to share with you some feed back from my students. As part of the course, I asked students o reflect on what they have learned and what they might do differently in the future having taken the course. Several students were quick to note your panel session and the impact it made on them.“Students commented repeatedly that having ‘religious voices’ in the classroom was not merely engaging, but a powerful learning experience. They commented that you changed the way they thought about religious dialogue and inter-religious cooperation. Many were struck by the mutual respect you showed for one another. One student even commented that before this course, they though the possibility of a Jew and Muslim sitting together was an impossibility. Another commented that it was interesting to see two representatives – Muslim and Sikh – with a shared history of colonialism sitting together, despite their own history of challenge and conflict. Others commented that what they saw at your panel did not fit with the presentations of religion they typically see in the media. All of them commented that having the experience to hear from religious representatives first hand has changed the way they think of ‘Others’.
I want to extend once again my heartfelt thanks to each of you. You have made an impact and positive difference to several students lives. For that, I am grateful.
with warmest regards, “
Rotary Club of Calgary Chinook
March 11, 2008
Prairie Bible College
World Religions class
February 4, 2008 at 3:00 PM
Islam 101 – The University of Akron
Syed B. Soharwardy
February 22, 2007
Comments from students regarding Syed B. Soharwardy’s presentation of Islam 101 at The University of Akron on February 22, 2007
- I thought the guest speaker did a good job of conveying the Muslim religion to the class. I learned a lot more about his religion than I had known before. I was surprised by how many rules that had to be followed. A lot of the moral principles are very similar to the Christian religion. I thought the true goal of his presentation was to shed light on his religion because of the bad name it is given by terrorists and extremists. Perhaps the thing I appreciated the most was that he respected every ones beliefs and did not try to push or influence others that his religion was superior. Therefore, I found the presentation to be worthwhile and am now more educated on the Muslim religion. – Clint
- I was impressed with Syed’s outright ask me anything you can’t offend me. It wasn’t arrogant, but comfortable in his communication. There was quite a bit that I learned, but I believe these are the highlights. Islam is not just a religion, it is a way to live your life, and it provides guidance when followed. This is first time that somebody explained God and Allah and I actually understood they mean the same. The five mandatory prayers and Syed’s explanation of why men and women are segregated made perfect sense. While men and women are separated, Islam promotes mutual respect. I told people about Syed’s lecture and they kept bringing up the Taliban and they denial of education and respect for women. It is amazing how little we truly know about Islam and it seems the media is interested in carnage, then actually coverage. To understand tolerance, acceptance and martyrdom was very relevant to our class reading. The plight of the poor and uneducated Muslim is what the corrupt leaders are exploiting. What I remember most is what I noted as the ‘basic problem’ with Islam; there is no leader, no Pope, no direction or accountability. Thanks to both Syed and David for making this educational experience a reality. Greg
- I enjoyed the presentation of Islam 101 by Syed B. Soharwardy. I was able to learn much more about the Islamic religion and the life of Muslims. I was in the United States Army-Infantry from 2000 to 2004 and I knew little about the enemy of United States or the Middle East. I was able to broaden my horizon and understand more about the Islamic religion and the tradition. I have always respected the differences of the world but did not know the differences between Islam, Jewish, Catholic, or Christian.
I learned many things about the Islamic religion. I learned about the Qur’ran being the Holy Book and that Jihad is a holy war. I learned about the Shari’a (rules of Islam. I learned that the religion does not condone to suicide to destroy the enemy but it is haraam (forbidden) and that Maryrdom is a tool used to brainwash the suicidal terrorist. I learned that Bin laden and al-Zawahiri do not even truly know the Islamic religion. They stepped up when no leader was there to govern the lands. The information that caught my attention was the Ramadhan in the 9th month. That whole month there is no eating or sexual relations from dawn to sunset. I even learned that they must shower before and after any sexual contact.
Another thing that amazed me and made me think about the Islamic religion was the method of prayer. I learned that they separate the women and men during prayer. They do not want the women close with the men in any such revealing clothes when they move to the ground in prayer. The prayer is done close together and it is done many times a day. It is done Fajr (before sunrise), Dhohr (just after noon), Asr (afternoon before sunset), maghrib (after sunset), and Isha (before betime). I knew religions were very different from one another but did not realize any would be mandatory to pray some many times a day. – Michael
- Before listening to the presentation given by Syed Soharwardy I must admit that I was naive in my thinking when it came to Islamic people and their religious ways. I did not understand why they did what they did; in the way that they dress, in the way that they spoke, and in the way that they lived. I honestly never tried to understand what their religion was about and why they did what they did. I only listened to the media and other ignorant people who obviously did not understand, and I took it as the truth. I understood that the suicide bomber that attacked innocent people called themselves Muslims and I, like many others, assumed that all Islamic people were like that. I thought they were violent and that all Islamic people thought that they were doing right if they were to kill themselves and others. I also thought that the men were sexist and believed that they were a better species than the women.I would like to thank Mr. Soharwardy for making me more knowledgeable about the religion of Islam and for doing so in a way that made sense to me. I liked how he went over the history of Islam, that really helped me to understand where it came from and why. I am very glad that Mr. Soharwardy took the time to explain honestly and candidly what Islamic people and their beliefs were really about. I have a lot of respect for “true” Islamic people for their patience and obedience, it would not be easy to be so disciplined. I was surprised and pleased to hear that the men are not sexist and in fact look at their women as being complete equals and a lot of their ways (dress, praying, talking) make sense now, as it did not before.I am glad that their is someone who is trying to make a difference by giving people knowledge and not by forcing them to see thing his way by force or manipulation. I only hope that more people can take after him in teaching people the truth and I hope that the ignorant people who only listen to here say will open their minds and understand the truth about the Islamic religion. – Deseree
MacKay United Church, Ottawa
January 23, 2007
Greetings Mr. Soharwardy,
The program was very successful…thank-you so much for sharing with us. I had many people come up to me expressing how happy they were and how amazed they were of the similarities between Islam and Christianity. You are doing such a great service for people.
Let me know if you will be giving other talks in Ottawa and I`ll share the news.
With much gratitude,
Connection 25 Classes, October 2005
Islam 101 – Syed Soharwardy
Feedback from some of the grade 11 and 12 students. These students were in the public education system and were all non-Muslims.
“What were some of the activity highlights for you during this four-day workshop?”
1. The third thing that I enjoyed was the presentation about Muslims. I really saw a lot of their culture was similar to the beliefs of my religion. And I am sometimes on the receiving end of the stereotyping that Muslims receive so I understood where he was coming from.
2. The Islam Presentation.
I was surprised to see all the stereotypes that we could come up with… Even at myself. You do not really realize how you think of these people until you put it on paper.
3. One other thing I liked was where the Arab person (I cannot actually remember his name) came and talked to us about the Muslim culture and the common misconceptions.
4. Islam 101. Certainly my favourite presentation. He was just so straightforward and showed me a side of Islam that I sure did not see on CNN. I never knew all of those things about the Muslim faith, and I am so glad that I was able to listen to it.
5. Another thing that I found really good was Islam 101. I believe now that if I were ever to leave Atheism and choose a religion, it would be the Muslim faith because I believe (just my belief) that the Muslim faith is one of the best religions. It includes other faiths within it and has a little bit more to boot. I also enjoy how the presenter of the Islam/Muslim stereotypes can just laugh at our summed up stereotypes. He reminded me of myself because I can laugh at my ethnicity and all the stereotypes that go along with it.
6. 2) Islam 101 was incredibly eye opening for me. Before that night, I knew zilch about Islam or the Muslim people and it was great to hear that most of the stereotypes I even had before, were false. Since then I have had a greater respect for the people within my school that have the courage to wear their hair covers around knowing that most people see them and automatically think “terrorists”. I could not imagine dealing with that kind of thing on a daily basis.
7. The Islam 101 I learned so much about the extremists in the Muslim culture and I have so much respect for Muslim people and it really did change my life.
8. The Islam 101 presentation was absolutely amazing, also. It was incredible to learn so much about a culture that has kind of been unknown to me, and to have had so many stereotypes cleared up. I felt as if I could have listened to him talk for hours and hours.
9. The Islamic speaker was also very good at opening my eyes to Islamic perspective and their view on things. I learned that most Muslims are great people and worthy of our utmost respect. I think Syed was an amazing person and was excellent at explaining concepts.
10. My favourite experience was when the Islamic person came in; he was the only person that actually kept me awake. It was very interesting. Our school will hopefully understand when we have the Muslim guy come in next week. Maybe it will change people’s thoughts on Muslims as it did for us!
11. 2. The Islamic guy… sorry I cannot remember names all too well; he made me think of what Islamic people have to go through on a daily basis.
(Note: For privacy reasons, names of students have been removed)