Yesterday, the Prime Minister’s Office sent out a news release, concerning “Eid on the Hill” celebrations. The text follows. I forwarded it to my friend, Ahmed Abualsamh, with the following message:
For your information, if you haven’t seen this already. I don’t know how sincere this is. What I do know is I don’t like pandering to any religion on Parliament Hill, and wish they would finally shut down the Christmas lights.
Ahmed replied as follows (e-mail correspondence reproduced with permission):
I don’t mind pandering, so long as it’s equal opportunity pandering. What I abhor is the pandering to one component of society over another, or for self- serving purposes, like at election time.
As for sincerity, that is an emotional and personal trait. When governments and heads of government speak, the statements need only be official. If backed by binding legislation, then the statements are all the more credible.
This statement below, that some may easily discount or dismiss, is the nuance that distinguishes Canada from the rest of the world.
One may argue that there is a between-the-line messaging, like Mark Anthony’s speech to the Romans after Ceasar’s assassination, and there very well may be. To the Muslims, the statement was flattering, and we hear what we want to hear. To others, this may have been an update, a reminder, a heads up: “The Islamization of Canada is under way; take heed”.
Regardless of intent or “sincerity”, the statement still stands and the truths therein–about Canada and her pluralistic stance and rich multicultural quilt, whether we accept it or not–will envelope the listeners and all Canadians, providing us with warmth and protection against the harsh and divisive winter that is assaulting many lesser nations this season.
You cannot imagine the impact–or the optics–of something like “Eid On The Hill” has with Muslims around the world. Muslims who in their own “Islamic” nations are not afforded the religious freedom a Muslim, or anyone else, enjoys in Canada.
If this country is the envy of the world, and I believe it is, then it is moreso the envy of the Islamic world, for those peoples who have come to know her and have learned to distinguish Canada from other Western and North American nations, aided in part by actions and statements such as these.
I welcome and applaud this very Canadian statement, not as a Muslim or because I am Muslim, but because at heart, I am truly Canadian.
From: PMO-CPM [mailto:pm@PM.GC.CA]
Sent: November 23, 2011 8:17 PM
Subject: Statement / Déclaration
From the Prime Minister’s Web Site (http://www.pm.gc.ca/)
Statement by the Prime Minister of Canada while attending Eid on the Hill
November 23, 2011
Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the following remarks while attending Eid on the Hill:
“Thank you, Senator. As-Salāmu Alaykum. Peace be upon you. Greetings to Minister Kenney, Ambassadors and High Commissioners, respected Imams. It’s a real pleasure for me to be here this evening for this extraordinary event.
“Thank you to Bassam Derbas and the Association of Islamic Charitable Projects and thank you as well to Daljit Singh and the India-Canada Organization. I’m delighted to see these two great groups working with Minister Kenney on what has become a new tradition: Eid on the Hill.
“Eid on the Hill is an idea that was a long time coming. This month, the festival of sacrifice has united families celebrating their faith. And this evening, the Muslim community is gathered in the National Capital to celebrate its many contributions to Canadian society.
“Throughout Canada, Muslims have succeeded in business, academia, the arts, in every conceivable field of endeavour, because this is a country where everyone has a chance to build a better life for themselves and their family.
“That’s why we have always attracted so many talented, hard-working immigrants, people who have done so much to build a growing and thriving dominion. We know that the Islamic faith has been present in Canada since at least the 1870s. But, back then, it would have been hard to imagine how many mosques have become prominent in communities across Canada.
“For example, my adopted province of Alberta has seen an evolution, from the construction of Canada’s first mosque, the Al-Rashid in Edmonton, in 1938, to the opening of Canada’s largest mosque complex, the spectacular Baitun Nur in Calgary – an event I attended.
“In celebrations like that one, like the Aga Khan Museum and Park opening, and of course, in being with you here tonight, it is plain to see the moderate, benevolent, true face of Islam – to see people who have embraced Canada and contributed immensely to our economic and cultural life.
“Friends, our incredible cultural diversity is one of Canada’s greatest assets. The harmony and vitality that characterize our Canadian diversity are part and parcel of what defines us as a free, democratic country. Together, we are building a stronger and more united Canada.
“For instance, in Ottawa today, people like Senator Salma Ataullahjan, who was born in Pakistan, are bringing a Muslim voice into Canadian political life. Because we all believe that promoting religious freedom is an essential building block for peace and stability here at home and throughout the world.
“Right across Canada, Muslim communities are making positive contributions to our great country. And tonight’s event is one more wonderful example of how we can all come together as Canadians. So let me just concluding in wishing all of you a belated Eid Mubarak.”