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
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?
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.