|L'ASSOCIATION DES MUSULMANS PROGRESSITES DU CANADA|
ASSOCIATION OF PROGRESSIVE MUSLIMS OF CANADA
KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY H. E. FAHAD SAEED AL RAQBANI
Ambassador of United Arab Emirates -UAE
Delivered at Ottawa
City Hall on May 16, 2019 at the 8th Annual Iftar Dinner
Excellencies, Honourable Parliamentarians, Deputy Mayor Laura Dudas,
President Mobeen Khaja & Distinguished Guests:
is an honour to be here this evening, and I extend my warm appreciation
to Mr. Mobeen Khaja, President of the Association of Progressive Muslims
of Canada, for giving me this special opportunity to speak to you
wish to offer Mr. Khaja my warmest congratulations on spear-heading the
Association of Progressive Muslims of Canada twenty-one years ago, and
hosting eight successful years of sharing iftar dinners with those of
different faiths, high-level dignitaries, and the community at large.
is an honour to have guests of different faiths attending the iftar
tonight, and I thought given this special scenario that I would share
some words about the spirit of Ramadan and iftars.
you may know, Ramadan is the Holy Month ~ the most sacred month during
the Islamic calendar, when Muslims fast during the daylight hours, which
includes not only fasting from food, but also abstaining from drinking
any liquids, praying to become closer to God, staying away from
pleasures, and giving to the poor or disadvantaged.
I would also like to emphasize that Ramadan is not only about
self-sacrifice and discipline, but it is also a joyous time for
families and friends to gather and celebrate each evening [when the sun
has gone down] – and also a time for us to bring joy to others around
could also be said that there is not only a joyous feeling associated
with Ramadan and iftars ~ but I could even go as far to say that there
is a special bond created between those who share in an
iftar – in breaking the fast together. For those of you who have so
graciously joined us here tonight, your attendance creates a special
connection between us all in sharing in this iftar together.
this special month, it is also a time of personal reflection when
we are reminded of what is most important to us in life ~
to be mindful of our priorities ~ contemplate what
we could be doing differently - or perhaps better said,
what we could be doing better in our own lives, and for
those around us.
same spirit resonates for me through the concept of tolerance. This
year, the UAE Government has designated 2019 as Year of Tolerance, where
we proudly renew and celebrate our country’s commitment to diversity.
UAE Minister of Tolerance, His Excellency Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al
Nahayan has said that diversity is a key driver of prosperity and
comprehensive development across various social, economic, educational,
cultural and other fields. Said
in a slightly different way, but with the same sentiments, the UAE is
committed to the principal that diversity is a strength ~ through
tolerance and diversity we become a stronger nation ~ we
build a stronger society. We seek to build our success through
embracing different abilities, genders, cultures, ethnic backgrounds,
and faiths. During this Year of Tolerance, we were extremely privileged
to have the historic visit of His Holiness Pope Francis in February,
which marked the first time an esteemed Pope visited the Arabian
his visit, Pope Francis held a meeting with Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb, the
Grand Imam of the Al-Azhar Mosque, regarded as one of the foremost
institutes in the Muslim World for the studies of Islamic religion and
law, and His Holiness also held an open air mass, with more than 135,000
Pope graciously remarked that the UAE is “a land that seeks to be a
model of coexistence, human brotherhood, and an encounter between
different civilizations and cultures”.
this same topic of respect and engagement between different faiths, I
think it is appropriate to mention a valuable initiative that Mr. Khaja
took on last October, when he took male and female Muslim youth to visit
the Vatican, which I understand was made possible through the strong
support of His Excellency Luigi Bonazzi, the Apostolic Nuncio of the
Embassy of the Holy See, who we have here with us this evening as well.
only did this group of Muslim youth have the opportunity to visit the
Vatican, but thanks to Mr. Mobeen Khaja and His Excellency Luigi
Bonazzi’s efforts they had the opportunity to meet His Holiness Pope
Francis directly, who warmly received them, and spoke to them
the second day of this same delegation’s visit to the Vatican, they
visited the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies (PISAI),
which is an academic and research institute that hosts non-Muslim
students from around the world to learn classical Arabic, in order to
gain a better understanding of the Quran. Interestingly, this institute
was originally established [in Tunisia] as a way for traveling priests
to gain a better understanding of Islam, and learn how to live
harmoniously together with an Islamic culture.
story is quite poignant for me, because it is not only a story of one
faith searching to build relations with the other, but a story of two
faiths equally seeking out understanding and cooperation with each
other, based upon peace and respect.
is also a good reminder for us that within different faiths we all share
similar tenants based upon the positive principles of: compassion,
forgiveness, patience, humbleness, and doing good for others.
to the importance of respect for those of other faiths, is the
understanding and respect of those from other countries. Like Canada,
the UAE is proud to be a multi-cultural country built on diversity. We
celebrate more than 200 nationalities living peacefully and successfully
in the UAE, (including approximately 40,000 Canadians), where different
faiths pray alongside each other, and each neighbour holds the other
reaffirming our commitment to diversity this year, it is also important
that I emphasize that my country is proud of the empowerment of women
in the UAE, and my government actively develops on-going supportive
policies to further encourage their success.
are privileged to have UAE women represent over 70% of our university
graduates, over 60% of our doctors, and hold two-thirds of government
sector jobs. Women are leaders in all sectors, including traditionally
male dominated professions, from: law, commerce, engineering to the
sciences. Women also finance one third of all the UAE’s financial and
banking sector transactions.
a quick societal snapshot, one of our top pilots is Ms. Mariam Al-Mansouri,
who serves as a UAE air force pilot. Her
Excellency Lana Nusseibeh serves as our UAE Ambassador to the United
Nations, Her Excellency Amal Al Qubaisi serves
as the Speaker of the UAE Federal National Council – (our parliament),
and nine females serve in the UAE cabinet, including Her Excellency
Shamma bint Suhail bin Faris Al Mazrui, who is the Minister of State for
Youth, and also the world’s youngest minister. It goes without saying
that all of these individuals represent the high success of women in the
initiative connected to Year of Tolerance ~ and our support for
diversity, could be seen when the UAE hosted the 2019 Special Olympics
World Summer Games in March of this year, which saw over 7,000 athletes,
from over 170 countries compete in a series of competitive sports.
this was also the first time since the movement’s founding over 50
years ago, that the games were held in the Middle East and North Africa
Special Olympics was an opportunity for top athletes with intellectual
disabilities to compete in the world’s largest humanitarian sporting
event. This has become a global movement which focuses on the
empowerment of what we call ‘People of Determination’ in the
UAE; individuals with intellectual disabilities who excel through the
power of sport. I was fortunate to be able to travel to Toronto, [just
prior to their flight to the UAE], and meet with the 109 Canadian
athletes from Team Canada, and their 54 coaches and staff, (who
remarkably represented almost all of Canada – 10 provinces and 2
territories), and I must say that this engagement was one of the most
meaningful experiences that I have had during my posting in Canada.
Canadian special athletes were a true symbol of success ~ of someone who
has overcome genuine challenges to reach the highest levels of
accomplishment and skill. They personified strength of character, and
excellence. As I said to them, they are leaders themselves ~ not just
for other athletes, but for those in all fields.
a final note, let us continue to work together in our own ways, in our
own lives to support one another within our diversity - within our
different abilities, backgrounds, gender, and faiths, which will ensure
not only each country’s success, but the success of our global future.
would like to thank Mr. Khaja once again, who invited me to speak this
evening, and thank you all for your patient ear. I look forward to
engaging with you throughout the night ~ and wish a Ramadan Kareem to us