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Let Me Tell You A Story: How Islamic History Month Canada Came To Be And What It Means To You

Published: 2 years 183 days ago
" All Canadian Muslims are encouraged to actively participate in Islamic History Month Canada (IHMC) and its activities by being present at events in their cities, involving themselves in IHMC activities, volunteering, and publicizing IHMC by sharing information with family members, neighbors, friends, co-workers and the public.
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By Wahida Valiante

Over the past decade, Muslims in Western societies have been pushed into the harsh spotlight of negative discourse.  This trend has been particularly evident in academia, among mainstream media, and in prevailing political rhetoric; but has not escaped other segments of Canadian society, including the general public.

Arising from that “us-versus-them” environment – in which “them” translates as Canadian Muslims and Islam – the idea was born to establish a dialogue among Canadians of all faiths, cultures, races and ethnicities to counter the poisonous environment created by propaganda and misinformation. It took root among Muslim and non-Muslim academics, community leaders and politicians; and led by the Canadian Islamic Congress, in 2007 it became the unprecedented reality called Islamic History Month Canada.

The core premise of Islamic History Month Canada was (and is) that it will provide an opportunity to explore the corridors of lost history, to rediscover a civilization which at its peak was not only in the forefront of scientific knowledge, but also an enlightened society built on the philosophy of inclusion and collective respect. As such, Islamic culture stands as a powerful but little-known example of how different faiths and traditions could live in the harmonious pursuit of knowledge and human development. 

Like the Roman and Greek empires, the early Islamic world also had a profound impact on the course of human history, one that left an indelible mark on the development of later civilizations in science, technology, literature and the arts.  Canada today reflects that diverse and balanced way of life through its laws, its official policy of multiculturalism, and the values of enlightened governance. 

On October 25, 2007 the Parliament of Canada officially declared October as the annual observance of Islamic History Month in Canada.

The Hon. Mauril Bélanger (MP for Ottawa-Vanier and Official Opposition Critic for Canadian Heritage, Francophonie and Official Languages) introduced the motion in support of recognizing IHMC, declaring:

"That, in the opinion of the House, due to the important contributions of Canadian Muslims to Canadian Society; the cultural diversity of the Canadian Muslim community; the importance of Canadians learning about each other to foster greater social cohesion; and the important effort now underway in many Canadian communities in organizing public activities to achieve better understanding of Islamic history, the month of October should be designated Canadian Islamic History Month.”

His history-making motion was carried in the House of Commons. During that inaugural year of 2007, and in every year since, a growing number of Canadian cities have individually proclaimed October as Islamic History Month in their civic jurisdictions.

With each year’s theme and programs, IHMC has shown that history is not only what is set down in books; rather, it is the living experience of who we are and what we do, individually and together in society. Moreover, in making IHMC a living reality, Canadian Muslims are also a part of Canadian history in-the-making.

We believe that this uniquely Canadian project has multiple merits and inherent benefits, of which a few have been selected here for special mention.

  1. IHMC offers an unprecedented opportunity every October to citizens of this great country to learn about Islamic contributions to humanity from Muslims themselves, as well as from those sympathetic to their culture and faith. This opportunity presents a positive contrast to informational sources that do not objectively represent Islam and Muslims.
  2. IHMC helps to build and sustain bridges of understanding and cooperation among Canadians of diverse backgrounds. These are the foundations of healthy communities and lead to greater harmony between individuals and throughout society as a whole.
  3. IHMC has the potential to reduce or eliminate the fear of “otherness” in our society; to deter or eliminate Islamophobia; to create an atmosphere of belonging instead of exclusion for Canadian Muslims; and to build a climate of acceptance and respect for diversity among all Canadians.

Therefore, it gives me great pleasure to update you on the work that has gone into the past several years.  I would also like to recognize, on behalf of the CIC and its board, that without your sustained support, both financial and spiritual, CIC could not have accomplished the many things it has done – in particular the birth and development of Islamic History Month Canada.

Most of you know that since 2007, IHMC has hosted an annual keynote lecture series on themes such as Islamic Art and Architecture; Islamic Banking and Finance; Irrigation and Water systems; Medicine and Pharmacology; and Islam and the Environment. Each year’s series has featured prominent international speakers who have toured to major Canadian centres, including Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Kingston, Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Vancouver. 

IHMC’s timely topics have not only resonated with our mixed audiences, but have also brought many people together through the power of shared issues, interests, and mutual discoveries. This series of events has giving even further impact to IHMC’s many benefits as a builder of understanding and appreciation between Muslim and non-Muslim Canadians. 

This year, Islamic History Month Canada is proud to host Michael Hamilton Morgan as its 2011 guest speaker. He is an award-winning former diplomat and author of Lost History: The Enduring Legacy of Muslim Scientists, Thinkers and Artists. Mr. Morgan is also the founder and president of New Foundations for Peace, a not-for-profit organization created to teach leadership skills to youth worldwide.

The title of his talk is “Lost History: The Enduring Legacy of Muslim Scientists, Thinkers and Artists -- Islam's contribution to enlightened governance, Pluralism and diversity as a civilization.”

He will be speaking on Wednesday, October 19, at 6:30 p.m. in the Noor Cultural Centre, 123 Wynford Drive, Toronto, Ontario.

This year’s host cities are Vancouver, Saskatoon, Kingston and Toronto and are full partners through collaboration and financial contributions in hosting this lecture series. Without their ongoing partnership we could not have sustained the IHMC project for five successful years in a row.

All year long, IHMC requires people-power, financial resources, and participatory community support in order to sustain this unique, yet very Canadian and very Islamic endeavour. When I became National President of CIC, I made the development of new partnerships one of my primary mandates; today, I am proud to say that with the forging of so many new relationships in support of Islamic History Month Canada, we are right on track! 

To find more detailed schedules for participating cities, please visit www.IslamicHistoryMonth.com.

Many other events, including the showing of documentaries produced by the BBC, are being presented by local libraries in several of the cities. To view them we invite you to visit: www.islamichistorymonth.com that lists the activities and the cities across Canada.

In closing I would like to address Canadian Muslims with the message that we need to empower ourselves by making Islamic History Month Canada everyone’s project, from the grassroots up.

All Canadian Muslims are encouraged to actively participate in IHMC and its activities by being present at events in their cities, involving themselves in IHMC activities, volunteering, and publicizing IHMC by sharing information with family members, neighbors, friends, co-workers and the public.

Whether it is embraced by Masjids, Mosques, community organizations, schools, or individuals, this is a Canadian project, made in Canada, by and for Canadians.  It is not about Islam “out there,” it is not “foreign.” It is about what people can achieve when they take up a compelling challenge and apply it, not dogmatically or in the abstract, but through implementing the fundamental first command of the Holy Qur’an -- “Iqra,” “Read!” as revealed to the Prophet.

We can achieve this by following fundamental Qur’anic principles such as standing up for human rights, gender equality, acceptance of differences in color, race, faith, and social status, and above all the boundless pursuit of knowledge. It’s about time as Canadians that we embrace IHMC as a progressive new medium through which to present Islam for what it really is – a religion of this time and place, not something alien, foreign, or imported.

---------------------------------

Mrs. Wahida Valiante
Chair & National President, Canadian Islamic Congress
Chair, Islamic History Month Canada


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