Ottawa Gatineau Muslim Community:1996 -2020, Emdad Khan*
Here, we highlight the progress of identity and visibility of Ottawa- Gatineau Muslims since 1996 to 2020.
In 2020 compared to 1996, Muslims are well organized as institutions, programs and activities. In 2016, Muslims under UMO-OG (United Muslim Organizations -Ottawa- Gatineau) gave a reception in Parliament to 20 elected federal Muslim MPs in the presence of half a dozen federal ministers and in turn federal 30 MPs in 2016 Ramadan hosted a multi cultural iftar event for 600 Muslims in parliament. In 2016, in Ottawa EY center Muslims under UMO-OG, organized an ILEAD (Islam Learn Engage Achieve and Develop) conference with 3,000 people in attendance. Also, in attendance were over half a dozen federal ministers and MPS, provincial MPPs, City councillors, Mayor, RCMP and Police Chiefs. Canada Prime Minister Trudeau visited snmc masjid on 17 March 2019 after New Zealand Christchurch terror attack. This proves growing influence of Ottawa Muslims in society.
As immigrant, each one of us has three identities: national identity as Canadian citizen, and values and ethnic identity of ancestral root, such as Bangladeshi, Somali, Arab, African, etc. and religious identity, Christian, Muslim, etc. Canadian charter of rights guarantees us to preserve our Islamic identity. In integration model, immigrant preserve the religious and cultural identities, still fully participate in Canada’s social and political fabric. In Canada, multiculturalism maintains and permits pluralist religious expressions and diversity.
UMO-OG: In 1996, Ottawa Gastineau had one masjid (Ottawa masjid) and few musallas. In 2020, we have eight large purpose-built masjids (Ottawa, Gatineau, As-salam, AMA, Bilal, Jami Omar, SNMC, Aylmer) and over 15 musallas. After 2009 January Gaza war, we seized a challenging situation of two conflicting fund-raising situations by HCI for Gaza victims and Bilal masjid for project. In February 2009, four persons from four organizations, (Fariz Elchamma -Ottawa masjid, Dr Abdellah Sebber Gatineau masjid, Ihsan Sindhu Jami Omer, and Dr Emdad Khan SNMC) sowed the seed of UMO-OG- United Muslim Organizations – Ottawa-Gatineau. It had ups and down, but now a well-established unity organization for fourteen Ottawa Gatineau masjids. UMO-OG did few activities together like donated over $60,000 to Alberta summer fire and another $50,000 to Ottawa, CHEO. UMO-OG received United Way Ottawa’s 2019 Healthy People, Strong Communities award
ILEAD (Islam, Lead, Engage, Achieve and Develop): **Using UMO-OG, we tried to host few joint yearly conferences in 2009 and most notable was the one organized in Nepean sports complex in June 2010, where over 300 youths, brothers and sisters. In March 2013, Br Mohamed Javed and his family, invited few snmc volunteers with an idea of holding an annual conference like Toronto RIS conference. We graved this opportunity and started bi-weekly meeting at SNMC Jockvale community center. SNMC team visited all the UMO-OG organizations and was able to convince to embrace ILEAD idea and in 2013, held first ILEAD conference in Ottawa EY center. In 21 March 2020, ILEAD is holding 8th Conference in EY center.
It was an eye opening first joint conference by 14 Ottawa Gatineau Muslim organizations. In attendance were 3,000 Muslims with bazar, lectures, seminar and workshops along with 10 Federal MPs, local dignitaries and UMO-OG leaders and imams. In March 2020, 8th Annual ILEAD conference being held in Ottawa EY centre.
Prophet’s Medina Model: In 600 AD, Islam’s prophet Muhammed made Medina declaration, where he was the spiritual leader of Muslims but civil leader of Muslims, Jews, non-believers and idol worshippers. Everyone was under state protections and enjoyed security. Ottawa Gatineau Muslims are diverse and come from 60+ different ethnicities and follows different Fiqh. With UMO-OG, we as one united Muslim community work, play, study and volunteer and live peacefully as contributing Canadian citizens with strong moral and ethics.
*Author’s view, does not represent any organization
** iLEAD 2020 on March 21, is postpned for Corono Virus