Author: Kathryn Greenaway
Source: Montreal Gazette
It’s been over two months since a lone gunman opened fire during prayers at a Quebec City mosque, killing six and wounding 19.
Over the past week, Muslim leaders stepped forward to thank elected officials in Montreal and Ottawa for demonstrating leadership by speaking out against intolerance and Islamophobia in the weeks following the shooting.
Under the sparkle of crystal chandeliers, 90 guests mingled in a Dollard-des-Ormeaux reception hall on March 28 before co-hosts Fariha Naqvi-Mohamed and Dania Fawaz offered an official welcome to the appreciation dinner.
The dinner was organized by Fondation Zakia, named for Naqvi-Mohamed’s late mother. The foundation offers scholarships to students in need and organizes cultural outreach events.
“We are especially grateful to Mayor Denis Coderre for organizing the public funeral of three of the victims so that we could all stand shoulder to shoulder as Muslims, Quebecers and Canadians with the families of the victims,” Naqvi-Mohamed said as she prepared to welcome Montreal’s mayor to the podium.
“I don’t believe in building walls. I believe in building bridges,” Coderre said to resounding applause. “We are an open society, but we must be vigilant. Diversity makes us stronger.”
Prominent leaders, including Imam Hassan Guillet whose passionate speeches at the funerals for the victims were heard around the world, offered thanks to the invited guests and elected officials which included local municipal councillors, local Liberal MP Frank Baylis, Pierrefonds-Roxboro borough mayor Jim Beis and Vrais changement pour Montréal leader Justine McIntyre, a city councillor representing Pierrefonds-Roxboro.
Baylis was singled out for his sustained support for the anti-Islamophobia Motion – 103, which was passed in parliament March 23 with a vote of 201-91. The motion was put forward by federal Liberal MP Iqra Khalid (Mississauga-Erin Mills). Khalid also spoke at last week’s dinner.
This week, Khalid was visited in Ottawa by six women from the Montreal chapter of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, including vice-president Amira Elias who lives in Beaconsfield and treasurer and CCMW board member Shaheen Ashraf, from Pointe-Claire. Ashraf’s husband Liagat offered to drive the group to Ottawa so that he could be offer his thanks as well.
“It was very brave of (Iqra Khalid) to stand up as she did in a time of fear and hatred,” Ashraf said. “All we want is to protect our families from hate speech and bullying.”
Ashraf said her four children were brought up to live an open-minded life and to love Canada.
One daughter is a math teacher at Lindsay Place High School and the quarterback coach for the Montreal women’s football team the Montreal Blitz. A son has been coaching elite tennis players in the United States for 25 years.
“I’ve been told to go home but this my home,” Ashraf said. “I have lived here for 41 years. I came here from Pakistan in 1976 with my husband and four young children.”
Motion-103 calls for the Canadian government to condemn Islamophobia and asks for a standing committee on Canadian Heritage to study how racism can be reduced in Canada and to collect data on hate crimes.
The motion was resoundingly opposed by all sitting Conservative MPs with the exception of Michael Chong. Khalid received 50,000 emails, a good many of them cruel in tone. She read out some of the worst during a parliamentary session.