The Canadian Certificate in Muslim Studies project emerged in a context of interfaith friendship and Christian hospitality. Nevin Reda El-Tahry, the program’s first coordinator, worked over the course of a year with Emmanuel College and Victoria University to invite participation from a variety of Muslim persons and organizations. Over time, the discussion included many people and spoke of a need within the Muslim community: Muslim leadership can benefit from education examining common commitments between Muslim values and the pluralistic context within Canada, and issues treated by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom.
The certificate program's primary aim is to help Muslim leaders and community members cultivate their skills better to meet the diverse needs of the growing Muslim population. As conversations about the certificate developed, they included a broad range of organizations and interested individuals. As the project progressed, the general aim has been to widen the net to include the major Muslim groups within the GreaterToronto Area. The goal is to have broad community ownership and participation in the program. On the university side, Emmanuel College has taken the lead in shepherding these conversations and in moving to host a full-fledged Muslim Studies program.
In the post-September 11, 2001 period, the leadership of the Muslim community in Canada has undergone various challenges at the community, national and international levels. One of the greatest challenges facing imams in Canada has been the need to accommodate diverse perspectives within a growing and pluralistic Canadian Muslim community. In addition, imams are in a unique position to lead Muslims toward greater participation in the multi-cultural context represented by Canadian society. The Canadian environment itself creates challenges for Muslim families that are not often faced in other parts of the world. Further, over the past few years, numerous issues have arisen that at times have created polarization within the Muslim community itself, and at other times demonstrated the diversity of opinions among Canadian Muslims. The Muslim Studies program at Emmanuel engages these topics in important and vital ways.