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Muslims aren’t perfect and the community should stop pretending it is, an American imam told Western University students Friday night.

“The idea that being a Muslim means being perfect is wrong . . . It makes us acutely irrelevant to ourselves and to others,” Imam Suhaib Webb told more than 200 men and women gathered on campus for the end of Islam Awareness Week. “We freak everyone out. It creates this strange vibe.”

Webb, who converted to Islam in 1992, was in London to talk to students about cultivating a Canadian identity.

Islam Awareness Week is put on by the Western Muslim Students’ Association.

Webb used his distinctive, American-preacher-style lecture to tell his audience the need to be a “perfect Muslim” alienates others and forces Muslims to lose sight of their humanity.

“We’re too pious. The Prophet tells us to be the best you can. Try to seek the target to be close to God, but you won’t hit the target every time,” Webb said. “The community has to expect at an institutional level that there will be imperfection.”

Webb told students it takes time to understand religion and its teachings. “Don’t expect sudden change. It takes patience . . . The need to change people drives us to the point where we’re rude . . . What’s with this need to change people, instead of just being freaking human?”

Someone will inevitably criticize the fact the event was for both men and women, Webb said, an example of how some Muslims create rigid rules that aren’t important.

“There’s a difference between a brothel and a mosque, man,” he said. “We sexualize ourselves to the point we become perverts. There’s a sense of patriarchy that makes young women think about their sexuality way before they should. The Muslim community reinforces sexuality that would have been learned way later in life.”

Webb said there are cultural reasons why Muslims feel the need to seem perfect, but that letting go of those pressures can help young people. “Utopian visions are rare, and they’re crippling,” he said. “The Prophet doesn’t have the goal of utopia.”

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