The Maktab Tarighat Oveyssi, or MTO, Shahmaghsoudi School of Islamic Sufism in Berkeley hosted an online discussion with community leaders Monday to celebrate International Day for Tolerance.
The MTO Shahmaghsoudi School of Islamic Sufism is a global nonprofit organization that aims to teach “peace, love and unity in all aspects of life,” according to spokesperson Mina Karimabadi, who facilitated the discussion.
“Since the pandemic, MTO volunteers globally have been delivering thousands of (units of personal protective equipment) to front-line workers and health providers and hosting large-scale food drives for homeless and low-income families,” Karimabadi said during the event.
The guest speakers in attendance were author Alice Walker, whose work focuses on the treatment of Black people; Berkeley theater group Shotgun Players founder Patrick Dooley; former Vallejo school board president Ruscal Cayangyang; Berkeley City Councilmember Cheryl Davila; and MTO Shahmaghsoudi student Cathy Condon.
To start off the discussion, Walker provided some background on her understanding of tolerance. Growing up with seven siblings, she was exposed to different paths and personalities as a child. This helped her develop tolerance, Walker said.
According to Davila, who ran for reelection as a City Council member this year, working in politics requires a great sense of tolerance.
“In the political arena, it’s quite different,” Davila said during the discussion. “You have to be very tolerant of all the things that are coming at you and be able to forgive and recognize when you’re not being tolerant, or when intolerance is being put onto you.”
Dooley, on the other hand, discussed the negative implications of tolerance. As “a straight white male in his 50s who has a mortgage,” Dooley claimed it is easy for him to tolerate behavior that negatively affects marginalized groups. However, he said he must choose to be intolerant against prejudice in order to be a true ally to his friends and neighbors.
Walker echoed this sentiment and added that there are certain things that must not be tolerated, including abuse and racism.
“Women should not be battered,” Walker said during the event. “People of color should not be harassed. Children should not be mutilated. There’s a limit to what you tolerate.”
Karimabadi then asked the guest speakers how tolerance can be taught to the newer generation.
Drawing from his experience serving on the school board, Cayangyang said tolerance can be taught by engaging kids. It is important to start a dialogue with children at school sites and in classrooms, Cayangyang noted.
According to Walker, children can learn the virtue of tolerance by example. Being taught words at school does not equate to having role models who practice tolerance in real life, she added.
“We just need to mentor our youth the values and principles we have so that they could have that toolkit to make a better world,” Cayangyang said during the discussion.