L'ASSOCIATION DES MUSULMANS PROGRESSITES DU CANADA

ASSOCIATION OF PROGRESSIVE MUSLIMS OF CANADA

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Up ] Dr. Siddiqui ] Hon. Roy McMurtry ] Barry Leon ] Senator Poy ] Ambassador Wilkins ] Paul Cavallluzzo ] Hon. Peter Milliken ] H. E. Farid Shafiyev ] H. E. R. Argunay ] Prof. Errol Mendes ] Zaib Shaikh ] Goldy Hyder ] Mrs. Vicky Heyman ] Mr. Tony Burman ] [ Hon Thomas Mulcair ]

 

Keynote Address by Hon. Thomas Mulcair at the Twenty-second Annul Eid-ul-Adha Celebrations at Parliament Hill on September 20, 2017 

( The French portions in red are immediately followed by the English translations)

Thank you Derek for that extremely kind introduction, which I guess is in the spirit of the evening.  I’ve never had such kind things said to me by someone who served for so many years for another political party. Thank you.

Mobeen, thank you.  It is an honour to be here with you. Thanks to you, and the whole team. The incredible work that you’ve done for the past 22 years is a model for all Canadians, and I thank you for asking me to be here with you tonight.

(Distingués invités, membres du corps diplomatique, du clergé, chers amis, j’aimerais commencer en félicitant les organisateurs de la soirée pour être ici, pour Eid Al Adha. Comme vous le savez Eid Al Adha est une fête qui est partagée, du moins dans ses origines, par l’ensemble des régions dites abrahamiques.)

Distinguished guests, members of the diplomatic corps, members of the clergy, dear friends, I would like to begin by congratulating the organisers of this evening in honour of Eid Al Adha. As you know, Eid Al Adha is a feast that is shared, at least in its origins, by all the Abrahamic faiths.

Eid Al Adha as you know is the celebration that is shared in its origins by the Abrahamic faiths which were, as properly pointed out before by Imran Hasan, as comprising the Christian faiths of course but the Muslim faith, and the Jewish Faith, and Imran, I was very touched before when you took the occasion to wish “shana tova” to everyone in the Jewish community, and again that is a wonderful reflection of the openness of this extraordinary organization that has been a leader for so many years.

A little word - I was sharing a discussion with the Turkish Ambassador as we came in this evening - see I don’t think we know enough about each other sometimes. I think religious literacy is something that we would do well to teach our children as well.  Derek pointed out that Catherine and I have been married for over 40 years, and we’re grandparents now. Catherine comes from France, but our religious backgrounds could hardly be more different. Catherine's family you see are “Sephardic Jews”.  Now if we retain from our history books that 1492 was the year that the Catholic Queen Isabella of Spain sent Christopher Columbus to discover America, it is also the very same year she expelled the Spanish Jews which was a large population. They were welcomed with open arms by the then Ottoman Empire all around the Mediterranean basin, and Catherine’s family settled in Turkey in the 1490’s.  That is a little bit of history that not a lot of us know.  So, in Catherine’s family would be aunts and uncles who went through the world war and experienced a lot of different changes in countries. When I would be with some of Catherine’s older aunts, it would be to tweak a child’s cheek and say “MashAllah Kha-no-min” you had all this

(C’était un métissage des cultures, des langues et des religions. Je ne pense pas qu’il y ait assez de gens qui savent que dans l’histoire de l’Occident, on a eu des événements de cette nature qui peuvent encore aujourd’hui, je crois, servir de modèle pour nous.)

It was a blending of cultures, languages and religions. I don’t think that there are enough people who know that in the history of the West we have events of this kind that could serve as a kind of model for us.

My father-in-law was born in Istanbul, or as his passport said, Constantinople, because he was born in the 1920’s when it was still that. His name at birth was “Avram”, the Hebrew version of Ibrahim/Abraham. With changes over the years, his name changed as well but not his origins. Catherine’s uncles, served proudly in the Turkish military and considered themselves Turkish, and the Turks considered them Turks, not Jewish Turks, not Turks who were Jews - they were Turks. And again it is a question of how we look at each other. Canada, I believe in many respects, can also be a model for the world. These are tough times right now.  We have examples around the world, we have evoked a little earlier in the evening the situation of the Rohingya in Myanmar.  That is a tragedy that should not be happening, that is a tragedy that perhaps is growing out of an increasing intolerance in the world and the increasing acceptance of intolerance, and I never thought, when I was in college in the early 70’s, that I would live in a world where we would be rolling back time, in terms of human rights where we would have leaders of major western countries, doing things, and saying things that went completely contrary to the ideals of the 60’s and marches of people like Martin Luther King, that we would be looking to ban people based on their religion, and I think that good people around the world should not be afraid to stand up against that and say why it is so wrong.  

I was with a Muslim family in Montreal shortly after the US election, and it brought tears to my eyes to listen to the husband explain to me how his wife who runs a small business had her hijab pulled off her head on a city bus.  How do you tell a thirteen year old boy that it is not alright to attack someone for their religion when the leader of a great democracy is attacking people for their religion?  It is a fundamental question of our values, who we are, what we want to be remembered for.  Progressive Islam, I think, that is one thing that again could be part of our cultural and religious teachings to each other.  Every Surah of the Qur’an commences with the words “in the name of God the Merciful and the Compassionate”.  Mercy and compassion are therefore central values in the Muslim tradition, and Muslim believers are called on by their faith to work for justice in their respective communities. Now I have to share with you, having been raised by very devout Catholic parents myself what it was like to be a five year old at l’école Sacré-Coeur” where my father was teaching me my catechism at home so we got home to the story of Abraham one day and my father was reading it to me, and I was just starting to read, and God said what? And you are going to have to do what to your son? And I remember sitting there and looking up at my father and saying ‘you wouldn’t do that?’ and dad looked at me - I come from a family of 10 children, my parents absolutely loved all of us- but my dad looked at me and said ‘it is a story’, it is a story in the Bible, but it is a story with an important point that you have to obey God, and God has to be above everything else in your life.  Those are beautiful stories, because it means that the goodness of God, doing right by other people is what has to guide you in your life.  I was relieved to find out it didn’t necessarily have to be taken literally, but I can tell you that as a child growing up in Quebec at that time, I used to go to the only Church in the neighbourhood and it was French, and what wasn’t in French, was in Latin, and my French was as good as my Latin when I was a young kid, but it was inspiring.  You had these deep beliefs.  My mom used to take those of us who had had our first communion when we were kids.  She used to walk us to a convent that was two and a half blocks away from our house.   We used to go to the convent sometimes five mornings a week for six o’clock mass, and sit there with the nuns, and there was an older priest who was serving up at the time, that I think is a reflection of another time, but it is also a reflection of how important it is to instil in our kids certain basic thoughts and beliefs, and values, and the beauty of an evening like tonight, is we learn about talking to each other and listening to each others prayers as an example of how we all have that goodness in common and that is what we should be speaking to, that higher self. When we hear people going in another direction, you know there are people who remember to- that should be remembered alongside Ghandi, and Martin Luther King, and Mandela, Pasha Khan, a Pushtun activist that led a non-violent fight against the rule of the British Raj - he was imprisoned and named Amnesty International’s prisoner of the year in 1962, Muhammad Yunus, awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 2006, for his grassroots development of microcredit programs allowing those normally too poor to borrow - mostly women - to break out of their poverty, and of course we know her well here in Canada, Malala Yousafzai, who is an ideal example of a devout Muslim, whose faith has moved her to fight for the rights of women and girls, even at the peril of her own life, and there are many others, that type of understanding of who our mutual heroes are, mutual understanding of the origins of our religion, that are often shared, that religious literacy that I am calling for, I think that those are things that Mobeen and the whole Association understands as being a goal in Canada today.

This feast is about renewing ones faith with gratitude, with sharing, and yes with optimism for the future, because even when things can get rough, you know that this too will pass, and that goodness will always come. It is also the time for us as Canadians to renew our faith and hope for a more peaceful world. Words fail, in describing how you feel, listening to the leader of the world’s most powerful country, yesterday threatening “the total destruction of a country whose population is nearly that of all of Canada” that just happened - it happened yesterday. Things are changing, but it is important for people to stand up, people like the Parliamentarians who are here tonight, my colleagues from the NDP, and those from all the other parties, to know that we have a role, beyond our simple jobs in Parliament, to try and be models on these important issues. Building bridges of understanding between peoples of all faiths should be part of our task. Working to project Islam’s progressive values by organizing cultural, social, and educational opportunities including events like tonight’s, this annual celebration dinner is a great example of your efforts to create stronger ties amongst Canada’s diverse communities.  It is wonderful to see people of so many faiths gathered here to celebrate the renewal of faith, and the spirit of unity, forgiveness, and charity.  It gives me great pleasure to be here with you on this auspicious occasion and to accept this special award.

Assalam-elaikum!

Eid Mubarak!

Receiving this award is important to me. Some of you may know I have been a long time advocate for the Muslim community in Canada, working hard to ensure that as Parliamentarians we create systems that safeguard against fear and division. Like many of you, I am deeply concerned that the resurgence we have seen in politics appear in recent years here in Canada, politics that have led to an increasing number of hate crimes, targeting various groups, for no other reason than their religion, ethnicity, language, or sexual orientation. Islamophobia has increased significantly in the past two years. That is a fact.  Let us acknowledge it, let us start dealing with it.  Incidents targeting Muslim Canadians are fuelled by fear of Islam.  Every new tragic incident weighs heavily in our hearts because Canada is fundamentally a country of peace. We celebrate diversity and difference. These values are important to Canadians, but they need to be fostered and protected. Last year, I was pleased to present the results of an e-petition against Islamophobia in the House of Commons. In a rare show of harmony, all parties unanimously joined the sixty-nine thousand seven hundred and forty- two supporters of the petition in condemning all forms of Islamophobia. I was proud to see my colleagues drop their partisanship to send a strong signal that Islamophobia would not be tolerated in Canada. Everyone came together.

(S’en est suivi d’une fusillade au Centre Islamique Culturel de Québec.)

There followed a mass shooting at the Islamic Cultural Centre in Quebec City.

That shooting was something new, was such a tragedy, none of us could believe it had actually happened in Canada. Six people were murdered, nineteen others were injured. Like all Canadians, we New Democrats were shaken. A malicious attack on Canadians, and our Canadian values.  We are people who celebrate diversity and difference, and this act was indeed a brutal wake up call, that we could no longer hide from the fact that we are at a critical time in our own history.  At the time this happened, I promised that the NDP would stand united and stand against the forces of hatred, bigotry, Islamophobia.  Here in Canada, and around the world, I have reiterated that promise ever since. New Democrats stand firmer than ever with all Muslim communities in Canada in fighting intolerance, hatred and violence that have to be condemned. If history has taught us anything, it is that we cannot stand on the sidelines and do nothing. We have to do something. We cannot allow the clock to be rolled back on human rights in Canada, or anywhere else in the world. Too many Canadians feel unsafe in their communities, and we just cannot accept that. This is not the Canada I believe in, and it is not the type of society I want to live in, and I know it is not the type of society I want to leave to my children. As a New Democrat, I want a society based on understanding, and inclusion, more important today than ever before. That is why we stood against the recent travel ban imposed by the American President. A very public condemnation of that travel ban was a way for us to say this is just not acceptable, and we are good friends, we are neighbours, and it is a common place to say that sometimes good friends and even family members have to say things straight up. It is not alright to ban people based on their religion - it is not alright to attack them based on their national origin, it is just not right, and what is sad about it is that it goes against the incredible light that the US has always been in the world with regards to human rights, and that is what is sad about it.  It is the loss of that voice south of the border of people standing up, when someone is able to say that white supremacists should be looked at because they have a fair side of a story that has to receive attention you know that something precious is being lost.  That is why we have to have the courage to stand up against that type of travel ban and decry it for what it is - it is a contradiction of all of those fundamental values - so let us keep our doors open. We have done well. Last year, fifty thousand refugees were admitted here.  Some thirty- five thousand were from Syria.  It is more important than ever for Canadians to understand that keeping those doors open is not just the right thing to do, it is a source of strength for the country, it is actually good for the economy as well. It is that openness I think, that will serve us very well heading into the future.  My pleasure in accepting this award is connected to those sentiments as a Parliamentarian. I’m grateful for the incredibly important work the Association of Progressive Muslims does to build bridges of understanding between people of all ethnic backgrounds and faiths in Canada. This is the ultimate place for dialogue. Let’s cherish it. Canada is stronger, because of the generosity and compassion of Islam. Islam belongs to Canada’s unfolding story. When we celebrate our different faiths and cultures, we become stronger as a people. One of the most rewarding aspects of work as a Parliamentarian has been to ensure that the systems we develop are based on fostering inclusion. My politics have always been rooted in a strong sense of public service and I know that applies to every other person who gets elected. It is what we do with that vision that we share, that really matters. That is why I am so proud of this recognition, Mobeen, thank you. Thank you to everyone in this extraordinary group. You know that you can continue to count on me as a friend.  Merci.  Bonne soirée.