Being the hub of Canada’s oil and gas industry, Calgary may not seem like the sort of city that harnesses creative energy the way cities like Toronto or Montreal do. Take a second look, and you might discover that there’s more to this city than meets the eye.
My “Abbu” (father) came from a Bangla-speaking family while my Ammu (mother) hailed from a Urdu-speaking family. It’s a common phenomenon in Bangladesh because before the 1971 war, we used to be East Pakistan and families that spoke both languages lived in both East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and West Pakistan (now Pakistan). Growing up, my brother and I spoke both languages, at home we spoke Bangla and in my maternal grandparents' house we spoke Urdu/Hindi mixed.
Muslim Canadians are rallying across the country to support the Rohingya in Myanmar/Burma and Rohingya refugees who have fled to Bangladesh.
On September 13th, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, State Counsellor of Myanmar. "The Prime Minister conveyed his deep concerns over the situation in Rakhine State for Rohingya Muslims and other ethnic minorities. He stressed the particular importance of the State Counsellor as a moral and political leader. The Prime Minister also emphasised the urgent need for Myanmar's military and civilian leaders to take a strong stand in ending the violence, promoting the protection of civilians and promoting unimpeded access for the UN and international humanitarian actors. The Prime Minister and the State Counsellor discussed the need to defend and protect the rights of all minorities. The Prime Minister offered Canada’s support to help build a peaceful and stable society in Myanmar that is respectful of the rights of all ethnic minorities. The State Counsellor expressed appreciation for Canada’s contribution to humanitarian efforts."
Born and raised in Montreal, Indo-Pakistani Canadian Navaid Aziz, 33, stumbled upon a vocation as an Islamic scholar when he was accepted to the Islamic University of Madinah in Saudi Arabia at 17. Now an imam in Calgary, Aziz will be coming to Ottawa’s I.LEAD Conference to discuss youth empowerment, countering radicalization in Muslim communities, and creating a balanced and just Muslim community.
For some Muslims in Canada, the events of September 11th cling to their collective memory like a dark stain, penetrating so deep into the fabric of the community that its presence is still felt 13 years later.
“The vast majority of Muslims opposed that barbarism and today remain horrified with what happened,” states Abdul Souraya, immigration lawyer and co-chair of the Calgary Police Middle East advisory Committee.
“Sometimes the community is painted with a very large brush. And there’s a collective punishment and anguish that goes with that.”
That sentiment is particularly fresh in Calgary, the hometown of five young men who reportedly joined an Islamic extremist group and were subsequently killed in action overseas in the last year.
Souraya was one of the presenters at this year’s OWN IT 2014 – a four-day conference organized by Calgary Muslim groups. Government officials, community leaders, academics, and police convened at a southwest Calgary mosque to discuss how to prevent criminal radicalization.