On October 25, 2007 – Canadian Parliament declared moth of October as Islamic History Month (IHM). Since then in the month of October the one million-strong Canadian Muslim community (the largest non-Christian community followed by Hidu and Jewish communities) celebrates and shares the diversity of great Islamic civilization. Its tolerance towards non-Muslims, its great contributions in arts, science, medicine, architecture, humanities, music, spirituality and every area of human knowledge and endeavour.
Roman Mukerjee, a Canadian inter-faith activist of Indian-Czech Christian background – wrote an open letter to Professor Mohamed Elmasry, founder of Islamic History Monthe (IHM) and the Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC), highlighting his fond memories of working with Canadian Muslims. Roman Mukerjee in his open letter published in The Canadian Charger (July 7, 2010), reads:
In my career, I spent 30 challenging and fruitful years with Multiculturalism Canada, where I had responsibility for Asian communities, and was the lead liaison for the RCMP and National Defence on visible minority issues. I helped the then-RCMP Commissioner modify the police dress code to include the traditional turban for Sikh officers.
The purpose of IHM is to bring Muslim culture to the Canadian public every October through films, lectures, panels and exhibits, in cooperation with relevant embassies. I was very impressed by Prof. Elmasry’s enthusiasm and his proposal to give Muslim communities positive exposure to counter the constant media misrepresentations on various world conflicts.
I must say that the stereotype of Muslims being exclusive and not open to “others” did not hold true in my relations with the Canadian Islamic Congress and in particular with Dr. Elmasry.
I was made to feel so welcome and equal in the IHM initiative that I was offered to sit on a panel to share my interfaith identity. This sharing was noted by an Ottawa radio program host, Dr. Qais Ghanem, who wished me to share this experience in an interview.
I look back at the years I spent in the multiculturalism department where I never got full recognition for my underlying “mix.” I was just “interesting” or “not typical.” I was not fully accepted for just who I am.
To go a step further, the executive director of The Canadian Islamic Congress, Imam/Dr. Zijad Delic, had no trouble recommending me for the Governor General’s “Caring Canadian Award” for outstanding volunteer work with cultural, racial and religious minorities. This action in and itself is a true award that gave me confidence with the Muslim community.
Overall, there are many cases of multicultural relations with Muslim communities. Our differences need to be shared, and we need to understand where we have much in common. We are indeed very privileged to be in a country that has an official policy of multiculturalism, which gives full expression to our Canadian identity.
I must thank the Muslim community leadership for including me, and for sharing what we can do together. It has left a lasting impression on me. Ultimately we are all equal in the sight of the Divine.