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One Hundred Years of Community Life in Edmonton

Remarks by Hon. David Kilgour, MP for Edmonton Southeast

Islamic Academy Project Groundbreaking

Edmonton, 24 April 2004


It’s a great honour to be here.  Your tremendous success over the past 17 years has been an inspiration to us all, and this new facility with capacity for 1000 students from pre-school to Grade 12 demonstrates world vision.  The Muslim community in Edmonton has a proud and rich heritage that continues to be passed on from generation to generation because of initiatives like this.

The Islamic Academy Project is a symbol of a community that is confident in its identity and secure in its place as a part of the Canadian mosaic. Recently, at the National Prayer Breakfast held in Ottawa, Dr. Christine Botchway, an Edmonton dentist originally from Ghana had this to say about tolerance: “The word tolerance has no place linked with human relation-building because it implies instantly the "putting up with," a reluctant acceptance of, a silent passive suspicious attempt to remove barriers of fear, suspicion, division--the roots of which are always deeper than suspected.”  She instead invited us all to love one another, and it is with this spirit that I come to speak to you today. This week in Ottawa, His Holiness the Dalai Lama also invited all of us to love each other.

Recently, while in Rwanda for the 10th anniversary of the genocide, I spoke with a local taxi driver who explained to me that during the massacres, anyone who could get into a mosque to seek refuge was safe.  The local imams would not let any of the génocidaires into their houses of worship to do the killings.  As a result, many Rwandans were saved the terrible fate that befell their friends and neighbours.  What better example of the kind of love spoken of by Dr. Botchway?

Muslims in Edmonton

This year, Edmonton is celebrating its 100th anniversary—and the Muslim community has been here for just as long!  Many Canadians probably don’t know that the first mosque in North America, Al Rashid, was built here in 1938.  As writer Daood Hassan Hamdani explains, it was “an affirmation of the human ability to persist and endure…and a testament to the fervency of the faith of the Muslims in Edmonton.”  Some years later, Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed appointed the first ever Muslim cabinet Minister (Larry Shaben). 

The community is growing every day. According to recent statistics, there are now over 30,000 Muslims in Edmonton, who represent over 62 ethnic backgrounds.  They run over 675 businesses and enjoy significant representation in all professions.  In all of Alberta, Muslims are the second largest religious group, numbering almost 50,000.

The Islamic Family and Social Services Association runs numerous social programs, including the city’s only Halaal food bank.  The University of Alberta has an active Muslim Students’ Association, which undertakes numerous community projects and provides university students with information about Islam.  Youth groups at Harry Ainley and Queen Elizabeth High Schools organize daily prayers, weekly excursions and celebrations for Eid.  These are only a few examples of the ways in which Muslims in Edmonton volunteer their time and energy to bettering our community.

I am here today to offer my sincerest congratulations on the success of the Islamic Academy Project.  I think most of us would agree that children are our most precious resource, and that it is essential to teach them about their heritage, culture and history.  I applaud the initiative of the Islamic Academy Project to ensure that generations of Edmontonian Muslims will have the chance to learn and prosper in such a wonderful academic environment.  What a testament to you, and indeed to all Edmontonians, that you have already raised over $4 million dollars!     

Congratulations on your historic successes, and I wish you best of luck in the future.  Thank you.  Shukran Asalamualiakum.


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