The willingness to confront tough issues is just who Tahir Aslam Gora is. While he trained as a doctor in Pakistan where he was born and grew up, journalism seems to have become his passion. In Pakistan, he was active in a number of literary and cultural organizations and became a noted critic of religious intolerance. In 1999, he came to Canada as threats against him mounted. His desire for justice did not stop and in fact grew as he adopted Canada as his new home. Once again he turned to journalism and the media to speak out on issues of concern. He speaks below of just one of his many initiatives since arriving in Canada. – CRRF
In 2010, I founded the Canadian Thinkers’ Forum based on my experience as a member of the Muslim community in Canada. While the Forum works on many projects, the goal is to create awareness and support social harmony and integration in Canadian society at large. As a not-for-profit organization dedicated to addressing the challenges of Muslim segregation and radicalization in Canada, the Forum studies and reports on the complexities of multiculturalism, Islamic radicalization, and anti-Semitism. The Forum operates as a think-tank, examining the impact of immigrants after 2000, the complexities of Canadian multiculturalism, and the growth of Islamic radicalization in Canada. Our work extends to analyzing measures to de-radicalize Muslim youth, and encouraging positive inter-community and inter-faith interactions.
The Canadian Thinkers’ Forum arranges interactions between Muslim and Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh and other faith communities. Since 2010, the Forum has arranged dozens of seminars, awareness workshops, symposia and conferences with the goal of drawing the strategic lines required to curb Islamic radicalization and anti-Semitism – and foremost, to foster harmony, multiculturalism and interfaith and positive intercommunity interactions.
PHOTOS Tahir with Malala Yousafzai's father, Ziauddin Yousafzai | The Canadian Thinkers' Forum logo
The Forum is currently focused on the issue of forced marriages and violence against women, specifically from the South Asian and Middle Eastern diaspora. In March 2015, the Honourable Minister Chris Alexander’s proposed Bill S-7, titled Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act, which received Royal Assent on June 16, 2015.
Obviously, Bill S-7 is very relevant to the Forum’s studies. The Act amends the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Civil Marriage Act and the Criminal Code, and makes consequential amendments to other Acts. Bill S-7 addresses some of the Forum’s concerns connected to these very significant issues.
Regrettably, at this time, authenticated data regarding such issues does not exist; however, the Forum hears many reports of harm and violence against Canadian women and girls. The frequency and number of cases documented by the Forum are enough to confirm that polygamy, forced marriage and honour killings can and do exist in Canada, and are issues that need to be addressed. A prevailing issue is that of forced marriage. The Forum has heard many compelling stories of parents or relatives taking girls abroad and forcing them to marry.
The Forum is working to launch surveys and an incident data center for reporting forced marriages, polygamy and honor-based crimes, as well as our core awareness campaigns, which include seminars and conferences. In addition the Forum is advocating for the following supportive infrastructure, specifically:
Muslim women’s support programs
Helpline and information centre for women at-risk and women who are victims of polygamy, forced marriages and domestic abuse
Support system and training programs dedicated to issues of forced marriages, polygamy, gender segregation and honour-based crimes
There is a dire need for widespread community awareness of these issues in Canada. Given the growth of Canadians from South Asia and the Middle East, all Canadians need to listen to these stories, understand the issues and work toward solutions that reflect Canadian values and inform the evolution of multiculturalism in Canada.
Aired on the CBC’s “The National” on March 6 2007. Mr. Tahir Aslam Gora’s interview begins at 8 minutes, 30 seconds.