The London Muslim Mosque and four other local Islamic organizations are dedicating a new leadership position to tackling the growing challenges facing the Muslim community.
The director of community outreach and engagement – one of the first in Ontario – will partner up with several existing committees, including youth, drug awareness and counter-radicalization groups, who will seek input from the community and develop proactive response methods.
Abd Alfatah Twakkal has stepped into the role that he said has been at the discussion table for roughly four years, when he was appointed as the mosque's Imam – leading prayer congregations and Friday sermons.
"The problems that exist in the community at large are also problems that exist within the Muslim community. Whether it's issues related to drugs, family safety, violence in the homes and gender based violence," he said.
"These are realities that we have to come to terms with in order to help solve."
Twakkal is currently serving as the acting Imam, until the mosque's board members appoint a new religious leader following an application process.
The LMM is spearheading the position, in collaboration with the Islamic Centre of southwest Ontario, the Muslim Association of Canada London chapter, Muslim Youth Association of London and the Al-Taqwa Academy.
Twakkal said the role will push for efforts to counter all forms of radicalization in the community by working with the Muslim Resource Centre for Social Support and Integration, a local anti-violence organization, and provincial and federal agencies.
"Anyone that takes extremes when it comes to their views whether they be political, social or religious and they want to adopt these and not only adopt them abut then begin working toward spreading these types of ideologies this is an issue for all of us. We need to work at it from that broader level," he said.
Although the role is focused on the Muslim community, Twakkal said it's not tied to a religious factor and other people can get involved to bridge the gap between communities.
"We are Canadians through and through. We are Muslim Canadians. We want to be able to contribute to making a positive impact and creating a society that is better for everyone."
The LMM is also set to play a bigger role in helping troubled youth and victims of abuse by working as a liaison and buffer between them and local support agencies.
Other focus points include equality and diversity, civic engagement and outreach initiatives.
Twakkal is set to meet with several community groups, including the London Police Services board next week.