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A Century of Achievement - Islam in Edmonton

Notes for Greetings to "A Century of Achievement"
Hon. David Kilgour, M.P., Edmonton Southeast
The Canadian Islamic Centre, Anniversary Banquet
Shaw Conference Centre, Edmonton
May 2, 1999

as-sa-LAAM al-ai-KUM

kern mi-na al-en-jaa-ZAT

It is a great honour to bring greetings from the Government of Canada on this occasion. Today, we celebrate a century of achievement and contributions made by Muslims in Canada, and also the 60th anniversary of Canada’s very first mosque – Al Rashid – built here in Edmonton.

The fact that Edmonton was home to the first mosque in Canada says something about the cultural diversity of this city. Immigration from all corners of the world has been a defining feature of this community since its founding. From the first Lebanese immigrants who settled here a century ago, the Muslim community has grown to include people from all the major Islamic nations of the globe. Canada’s Muslim communities come from as far east as the Philippines and as far west as the Caribbean. Islam is truly a global religion – one of the great religions of the world. Those international origins are reflected in the diversity of our own local Muslim community.

The construction of the Al Rashid Mosque in 1938 was a momentous occasion. The Muslim community of Edmonton was, of course, much smaller then. I note that its official opening involved the broader community, with the mayor of Edmonton attending and a Christian Arab acting as master of ceremonies – a reflection of religious tolerance and freedom that continues today.

Your historic celebration is the focus of this event, but I’ve been asked to comment briefly on the humanitarian crisis in Kosovo. It is heartwarming that Canadians of all faiths have responded so generously to the plight of the Kosovar Albanian refugees. Edmonton’s Muslim community has also been at the forefront. Children of Islamic Nations – COIN – who have a booth here, are raising funds for sending medicine for children affected by the crisis. These kinds of community efforts are very important, and you have the strongest encouragement to keep up the good work.

The military action by NATO has dominated the news, but official humanitarian assistance has also been a very important part of the Canadian government’s response. The government is contributing $10 million through CIDA to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, and $5 million in food aid through the World Food Program. Although it was decided that refugees should remain in the region, at least for now, Canada has offered to accept 5,000 refugees should this be necessary. Many Canadians have generously offered to help, even taking refugee families into their homes if needed.

This outpouring of goodwill reflects the kinds of values that are common to all the major religious faiths. Religion is an important pillar of the community. Ours is a city with many pillars, and Islam – as tonight’s event shows – is a vital pillar. It has been said that "Heaven is above our heads as well as below our feet." The role of pillars, as we know, is to unite what is above and below us.

British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook recently spoke of the need to bring Western and Islamic understanding closer together without losing their separate traditions. "Islam," he said, "laid the intellectual foundations for large portions of Western civilization. Our cultures have intertwined throughout history. They intertwine today. And they must continue to do so, as our futures become more and more closely bound together."

Here in Edmonton, those traditions come together on a daily basis.

Congratulations on your historic successes, and I wish you many triumphs in the future – in-shaa ALL-ah (God willing). Thank you. SHU-kur-ya and ALL-ah ha-FIZ.

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