In a violent world where cruelty and suffering abound, Canada's Muslims are observing the holy month of Ramadan with deep gratitude but also sadness.
Their sorrow emerges from the ongoing suffering of innocent people in places like Syria, Myanmar (Burma), Palestine, Afghanistan and Yemen, among the most tragic examples, and also from the death and injuries of innocent people in London, Manchester and other places at the hands of terrorists who kill and maim, violating the teachings of what they call their own faith, Islam.
Their gratitude springs from the fact that they live in arguably the world's best country. They enjoy freedoms of religion and expression, democratic rights, the rule of law, the support of fellow Canadians and all levels of government, security and opportunities. Canada offers excellent education and medical systems, economic opportunities and a social services network that includes old-age security as well as assistance for those without jobs or with poor health.
While Canada is far from perfect -- as its indigenous people will testify -- it remains on the whole a model country. It provides a home to refugees and makes no distinction based on gender, religion or ethnicity.
While Canadians accept and respect each other, the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seeking to make all Canadians, from the indigenous people to the recent refugees from Syria, feel that Canada is their country and is enriched by their contributions.
Trudeau welcomed Ramadan with a message that said in part: Ramadan is "a time of community, when Muslims gather with family and friends to pray and share iftar, the evening meal. For all of us, Ramadan is a reminder to appreciate the many gifts we are given, and to give generously to others, in our communities and around the world.
"This year, as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation, let us take the opportunity to honour the many cultures, traditions, and beliefs that make Canada such a wonderful place to live. Muslim Canadians help make Canada the strong, diverse, and inclusive country it is today."
The prime minister hosted an iftar, with Muslim Members of Parliament as the chief guests. Muslims number some 1.5 million among Canada's 35 million people. The federal cabinet includes two Muslims, one a woman, the other a former Somali refugee who is now minister of immigration.
This year, for the first time, the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario hosted a Ramadan iftar in Toronto. Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowsdeswell stated: "May thoughtful and peaceful engagement be our gift to the future and our legacy to the world."
She stated: "Despite the progress many have made, we must not shy away from examining the low points of our history and of our current situation... When a survey finds that an epidemic of Islamophobia exists in Ontario, as one did just last July, when the Mayor of Brampton feels the need to speak out against hateful speech at school and about prayer, as she did in March, when an Imam in Mississauga receives a death threat as Ibrahim Hindy did just last month -- this is prejudice and it is shameful."
"Any attack on Muslim Canadians is an attack on all Canadians for Islam has a proud history as one of Canada's major religions," she said.
The Ontario legislature had unanimously passed a resolution condemning Islamophobia, as did the federal House of Commons. Now Ontario has passed legislation that targets systemic racism and promotes racial equality.
Canada Post last month issued its first Eid stamps as part of celebrating Canada's faiths and cultures. Later this year stamps for the Jewish Hanukkah and the Hindu Diwali will be unveiled along with the traditional Christmas stamps.
Canadian Muslims are contributing to their country individually and as a community. They are working with Canadians of other faiths to serve all Canadians by helping institutions such as hospitals and universities.
When I came to Canada, there was no mosque in the capital and no imam.
Muslims prayed at a church that welcomed them. They built a mosque next door and their relations with the churchgoers were so cordial that when the church was put up for sale, the congregation sold it to a Muslim organization rather than to developers or other clients.
Now Ottawa has a dozen imams and mosques with more to be built as the community grows. This year eight organizations are providing free daily iftars -- the Ottawa Muslim Association, Islam Care, Assunah Muslim Association, Centre Islamique de l'Outaouais, Sanad Collective, Turkish Association of Canada, the University of Ottawa Muslim Students Association and Carleton University Muslim Students Association.
For four years, the Shia Abudhar Ghaffari mosque has arranged an iftar-dinner where they invite Sunnis and pray behind a Sunni imam. For two years the Ottawa Muslim Association has hosted an iftar-dinner with Shias and Shia imams as guests.
Several Muslims and Muslim organizations are working with people of different faiths to help fellow Canadians and the needy around the world. Canadian Muslims have much to be thankful for and they are doing so fervently in this blessed month.
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