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Khaiam Dan, Seniha Yildiz and Abier El Barbary were among the first to enrol in the Muslim Studies Program at Emmanuel College
Khaiam Dan, Seniha Yildiz and Abier El Barbary. Photo by Amanda Keenan

Leap of Faith

New degree program designed to promote understanding between Christians and Muslims

This fall, Emmanuel College will officially launch a Muslim Studies program that is being called the first of its kind at a Canadian university. The courses, offered as part of a Master of Pastoral Studies degree, are designed to promote interfaith dialogue between Muslims and Christians, and prepare graduates for leadership roles within Canada’s fast-growing Islamic community.

The two-year, full-time graduate program will enable students from a variety of religious communities to specialize in pastoral care, serve as chaplains or work with social service agencies and not-for-profit organizations, principally in Toronto, that cater to Muslims.

“Today, anyone who takes religion seriously needs to become fluent in the language of interfaith conversation,” says Mark Toulouse, the principal of Emmanuel College and a professor of the history of Christianity. He adds that the new program aims to foster a better public understanding and appreciation of Islam in Canada.

The number of Canadians who identify as Muslim has doubled in the past decade to 940,000. In comparison, the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches have several million adherents, but growth is flat or declining. Polls show that many Christian Canadians both misunderstand and fear Islam, so Emmanuel’s new program is an important and timely effort to bridge that divide, says Toulouse.

“The program not only provides educational opportunities at the master’s level for the growing Muslim population, but also promotes dialogue, understanding and respect between current and future Christian and Muslim leaders in Canada,” he says.

The Muslim Studies program, developed in close consultation with Islamic leaders in Ontario, will offer students a selection of 20 courses in the Qur’an, the history and theological tradition of Islam, Islamic law, biomedical ethics and religious pluralism, among others.

The master’s program is the outgrowth of Emmanuel College’s groundbreaking and successful Canadian Certificate in Muslim Studies, launched in 2010 to enhance interfaith dialogue. It has been recently broadened to include courses on such topics as Muslims in Canada, spiritual care, and women and gender.

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  1. 8 Responses to “ Leap of Faith ”

  2. University of Toronto Magazine says:

    It seems to me that the more pertinent conversation should be between Islam and secularism. We are, after all, a predominantly secular society, and Islam's agenda is political, not simply religious. I therefore do not see the overriding significance of an "interfaith" dialogue and what this is supposed to accomplish.

    Mike Scapillato
    UTSC 1972

  3. University of Toronto Magazine says:

    This article caught my eye for its confident appraisal of the Christian mindset and allusion to a correct standard for understanding Islam. Mr. Mitrovica wrote “Polls show that many Christian Canadians both misunderstand and fear Islam."

    In order for one to “misunderstand” Islam, those drawing conclusions must “understand” it. No doubt we can be assured that the new Muslim Studies Program will provide such true understanding and its future graduates will be able to demystify the complex mechanics of Islam when the inevitable next round of blasphemy rage erupts. I expect that U of T grads will lead the charge to enlighten Canadians who haven’t yet managed to overcome their irrational fear and mistrust of Islam.

    Watch out Al Azhar – it won’t be long before U of T becomes a contender for Obama’s coveted title of “beacon of Islamic learning."

    Henry Brechun
    BASc 1982
    Cambridge, Ontario

  4. University of Toronto Magazine says:

    I would like to know if the students who enrolled in this new program would be compelled to take courses dealing with civility, tolerance and human rights of women along with Islamic law and history of Islam etc so they could influence the numerous Islam followers here in Canada and all over the world after they complete their studies.

    Paul Mach

  5. University of Toronto Magazine says:

    @Paul All our degree programs at Emmanuel College stress for all students (Christians, Muslims, and others) through course work the importance of civility, tolerance, and human rights for all persons (including women, and gays and lesbians, and all others). The program in the Muslim degree track also contains specific courses dealing with both Islamic Law and with the History of Islam and, of course, the nature, history, and interpretation of the Qur'an.

    I hope this addresses the questions you have raised.

    Mark G. Toulouse
    Principal and Professor of the History of Christianity
    Emmanuel College of Victoria University

  6. Concerned says:

    Why wouldn't they simply go to a Muslim institution or create one within the university? This is one more step to the Islamization of Canada. I am truly saddened that what passes as a "Christian"-based institution -- Emmanuel College -- has opened up an Islamic Pandora's box. Principal Toulouse can parade this under the Trojan horse of human rights all he likes. Most reasonably minded people know what this is really about. This basically confirms that the Christian credentials of his institution is in name only and not much else. May I suggest he now do a similar exchange program with Saudi Arabia or Pakistan. Perhaps they can begin Christian Studies programs there to increase interfaith dialogue.

  7. University of Toronto Magazine says:

    All this "interfaith" talk is utter delusion, nonsense and folly. It grieves my spirit. When will people wake up? Islam's clear goal is to take over and
    subjugate us all. Not one dime of mine will ever go toward fundraising efforts from U of T.

    Laurie Hamill
    BA 1981 UTSC

  8. University of Toronto Magazine says:

    This program will doubtless serve a much-needed purpose in aiding the growth of interfaith tolerance between Canadian Christians and Muslims. From a global perspective, however, it is tragic that no such urgent initiative is being undertaken between Sunni and Shia Muslims; the welfare of millions, and stability of the entire Middle East and much of Asia is at stake.

    Paul Van Loan
    BA 1957, MA 1958,
    Santa Cruz, California

  9. Terrance Seney says:

    As the United Church declines, so does the demand for Christian-based theological education. To what extent is money a motivating factor in training Muslim clergy? The motives behind this move are not clearly defined or identifiable.