Islamic History Month: Queen’s professor Robert Lovelace shares his personal journey with religion

Events discuss Islam and the ways it relates to Aboriginal communities and the environment

Robert Lovelace spoke on Oct. 15 as part of Kingston's Islamic History Month.
Robert Lovelace spoke on Oct. 15 as part of Kingston's Islamic History Month.

 “Know Each Other” is the theme of Kingston’s ninth annual Islamic History Month, which spans the month of October.

Subtitled “Honouring Canadian First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Peoples”, the celebration is intended to strengthen ties between Kingston’s Muslim community and the city at large — while also fighting ignorance towards Muslim and Aboriginal communities, as well as the environment.

The month’s events started on Oct. 1 with an on-campus screening of a documentary entitled 30 Days among Muslims. Since then, there have been a several events, including a lecture on Oct. 15 held by Queen’s professor and activist Robert Lovelace.   

The lecture, entitled “My Journey to Islam”, delved into the relationship between Aboriginal communities and Islam.

Lovelace, a former chief of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation, has a long history of activism, including protesting developments on First Nations land, resisting the Vietnam War draft and attempting to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza as a member of the flotilla movement. During the lecture, he talked in depth about his activism and how that has shaped his relationship with religion.

“[Islam] was a viable alternative to our present system of capitalism and colonialism,” Lovelace said. “It made intellectual sense to me.”

Although Lovelace found Islam late in life — he first read the Qur’an at the age of 60 — he said he always believed in the values that Islam promotes.

 “As western folks, and as a western culture, we’ve orientalised Islam to the point of thinking that it’s abnormal, but in reality, when you begin to read the Qur’an, you realize that it’s quite normal, and it’s quite common sense,” he said.

Building relationships with other groups and fighting ignorance is nothing new to Kingston Muslims. According to Islamic History Month organizer Dr. Mohamed Bayoumi, the Kingston Muslim community has a long history of community activism.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Kingston Muslims worked to stop racism in Kingston, working as key players in Kingston’s multicultural breakfast forums — regular discussions about social issues among many diverse groups in Kingston.

At that time, “racism, not Islamophobia” was the problem, according to Bayoumi.

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Islamic Centre of Kingston held its first open house to combat ignorance about the faith. More than 2,000 people showed up.

In an effort to reach out to the community, the Kingston Islamic Society joined the national Islamic History Month movement. In 2007, then Kingston Mayor Harvey Rosen signed a proclamation to begin the city’s own Islamic History Month celebrations. It has been an annual event ever since.

The month’s final event is a panel discussion — “One planet… many voices” — that will focus on the environment, with perspectives from Islam, First Nations communities, academics and the Green Party. It will take place on Oct. 29 in the Kinesiology Complex at 7 p.m. 

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