York Interfaith Dialogue

Written by Ezra Tanen, Student

University offers the opportunity to engage in new ideas and to discuss pressing, topical issues. The incredible diversity and sheer number of students at York University means that almost every perspective is represented and there is occasion to step outside the limits of your own outlook. A few weeks ago Hillel and Islamic Arts York partnered in an interfaith dialogue about religious-based prejudice, a phenomenon that affects members of both communities all too often. The event was attended by students of both faiths, and everyone was challenged to understand the experiences of another religious group. I spoke about the issue of Islamophobia in North America and within the Jewish community while Veys Inci, the President of Islamic Arts York, did the same for Anti-Semitism. A lively discussion followed centering on the role of religious identity in propagating prejudice, an unbelievably important topic for any member of a religious community. Of course one multi-faith event, or even one discussion, cannot end Anti-Semitism or Islamophobia or any sort of bigotry. However, the very act of coming together, even if it is sitting in the Hillel lounge for a couple of hours to talk about prejudice, carries with it something of both symbolic and tangible value. It signifies, to those in attendance and those who were not, that Jews and Muslims have much in common, that discourse is possible and that whether you are a Muslim or a Jew, Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia should matter to you. More tangibly, for those at the event, relationships were made across a religious divide and everyone was able to learn from the perspective of someone else. These effects are especially important at York where politics can sometimes give the impression that diversity inevitably divides the vast student body. I hope, though, that throughout one’s years at this university, it becomes clear that diversity begs for bridges to be built and there are people to meet and much to gain outside one’s own bubble. This dialogue hosted by Hillel was one way to bridge the divide: discussing topics that are known to be uncomfortable, and it represents a small step towards what the years of university are supposed to offer.