Harmony Iftar a real eye-openerWritten by Nayaelah Siddiqui
“The media has a way of negatively representing Islam and coming here today really showed me that the Islamic community is far from that,” says Dhanuddara Mohottalage, a young high school graduate of Buddhist faith.
Ms. Mohottalage joined many other non-Muslims to celebrate and learn more about the month of Ramadhan at the 5th Annual Harmony Iftar dinner held at Sala San Marco Banquet Hall on Friday, July 26. The fast-breaking dinner is an annual event that invites Muslims to build a stronger relationship with their friends and neighbours of other faiths by introducing them to the holy month of Ramadhan and correcting any misconceptions they may have about Islam in a friendly relaxed and environment.
With about roughly 300 guests, the hall was a mosaic of Ottawa's diversity.
The Ottawa Muslim community celebrated this year's dinner in collaboration with the Turkish Embassy. Turkish Ambassador Tuncay Babali, set the tone for the evening. “Your faith is your strongest inspiration” he exclaimed, reminding the crowd that such events strengthen core Canadian values of multiculturalism. He further reminded his fellow Muslims of a hadith, a saying of the Prophet Mohammed, peace and blessings be upon him, “a Muslim is one with whose words and deeds other people are safe.”
Dr. Aisha Sherazi, a former principal of Abraar School, discussed the meaning of charity in Islam, distinguishing between Zakat, the monetary form of charity that each Muslim who is financially able must pay during Ramadan, and Sadaqa, the form of charity which could even be expressed with a smile. She reminded the audience that “We must keep an eye out for one another and make an extra effort to encourage one another.”
Jalil Marhnouj, a member of the board of Assunnah Muslim Association, presented a detailed PowerPoint on the rules and regulations of Ramadan. Ms. Mohottalage felt that this gave her a chance to understand why Muslims fast. “It is to become selfless, practice generosity and develop compassion and patience” she said.
Gurinder Dhanoa, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's Counter Terrorism Information Officer, shared a conversation about dates he had at his table. Upon being asked by a Muslim at his table if he had ever had dates, Officer Dhanoa assumed he was being asked whether he had ever gone out on a date, and responded accordingly. Stunned, the questioner tried to be more specific and added “I mean dry dates”. Officer Dhanoa continued to misunderstand and responded “I had a lot of those when I was single!” His story caused the room to burst into laughter.
Such conversations helped to establish a level of understanding between such diverse individuals. Hibo, a friend of the event's founder, Ayan Dualeh, has been attending the iftar since its 1st year. “I started out as a volunteer and here I am as a guest. That shows you how much this has grown!” she said, proud of this year's high turnout.
Shortly after the speeches, Turkish and Indian cuisine was served followed by Turkish cultural performances such as traditional drumming and whirling.
To many this event truly portrayed that different religions stand on similar core principles of kindness. As Mr. Babali stated, “We are all one on the face of this earth” and we could certainly achieve harmony if we all believed in this statement.
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