A lecture by a U of T Mississauga professor entitled “Islamic Universalism and Multiconfessionalism,” held Oct. 6 at Erindale United Church, aimed to dispel common misconceptions that have plagued the Islamic faith’s reputation.

Professor Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi, chair of the department of historical studies at UTM, discussed what he called the humanistic features of Islam. Islam’s reputation of militancy and extremism, according to the professor, does not represent the universalism, compassion, and acceptance of others that is the foundation of the religion.

Professor Tavakoli-Targhi said that the modern perspective of Islamism is a product of the media and their focus on what he refers to as “hyper-political sects” promoted by extremists.

He pointed out that while there are various interpretations of the Qur’anic text, intolerance, isolation, exclusionism, and the promotion of ‘the other’ as the enemy goes against the true spiritual message of the Qur’an.

The most challenging part of the lecture for Tavakoli-Targhi was addressing audience questions, particularly on the role of women. The professor agreed that gender inequalities are a large problem in Middle Eastern societies but maintains that these views emerged in Medievalist Islam and are predominantly a product of those countries responding to urbanization.

Tavakoli-Targhi explains that it is implicit in the Islamic faith that Muslims must be able to understand God from the perspective of other religions. Many Muslims, he argues, have a very “kindergarten understanding” of Islam.

The lecture launched Canadian Perspectives Lectures, which will be hosted by UTM every Thursday until Nov 3.

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