IRST OTTAWA CITY HALL IFTAR DINNER – July 25, 2012
On July 25, 2012, the first Iftar dinner was held in the Jean Pigott Hall at the Ottawa City Hall. Mayor Jim Watson was the Guest of Honour. The Association of Progressive Muslims of Canada inaugurated this event at City Hall along the same lines as the Iftar dinners hosted by President Barack Obama at the White House and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the State Department for American Muslims to commemorate the Holy Month of Ramadan.
Mr. Charles Coffey, O.C., was the emcee for the evening. The dinner was well attended by several members of the Diplomatic Corps, elected representatives from all levels of government, representatives from the Regional Police services, and members from the community.
The event was supported by His Worship Mayor Jim Watson, Mr. Jeff Boyd – Regional President, Ontario North and East Region RBC Royal Bank and by Ms. Peggy Morgan – Advisor, Government Relations, Regulatory and Government Affairs, RBC Royal Bank, and by His Excellency Farid Farid Shafiyev, Ambassador for the Republic of Azerbaijan
President Mobeen Khaja welcomed the guests and thanked the Mayor and RBC and the Ambassador of Azerbaijan for their support. The Mayor said that he was pleased to have this event at the Ottawa City Hall and hoped that this would continue in the future. He acknowledged the work the Association is doing in building bridges of understanding. A Sandulak’s Spirit bear sculpture was presented to the Mayor at this inaugural event.
Some APMC members traveled from Toronto to be at this event.
Hon. Bob Chiarelli brought a message from Premier Dalton McGuinty, Mr. Jeff Boyd brought greetings from the Royal Bank of Canada and His Excellency Farid Shafiyev spoke about Ramadan and said that Canada has a long history of religious tolerance and diversity that can serve as a model for the rest of the world. My country, Azerbaijan, also shares this tradition of diversity and respect for difference. His full speech is below:
Dear Friends, Colleagues, Distinguished Guests,
First of all, I would like to express my appreciation to the Association of Progressive Muslims of Ontario and its leader, Mr. Mobeen Khaja, for inviting me to speak this evening.
I would like also to express gratitude to His Worship Mayor Jim Watson for allowing us to have Iftar dinner in the City Hall.
I cordially congratulate all of you on the commencement of Ramadan and extend my most sincere regards to everyone. I want to thank you for coming this evening to celebrate the holy month. Ramadan is a time of fasting, purification, and reflection, and I am grateful that we have the opportunity to consider what this month means for the Muslim community of Canada and even for non-Muslims
I am very privileged to be spending Ramadan here in Canada. Canada has a long history of religious tolerance and diversity that can serve as a model for the rest of the world. My country – Azerbaijan – also shares this tradition of diversity and respect for difference. I am very proud to say that the Republic of Azerbaijan is a multinational and multi-religious country, with a national policy that is based on the principles of tolerance and coexistence of various nationalities, ethnic groups and religious minorities. the strength of Azerbaijan lies in the fact that representatives of all nations and religions live in peace here. They live in the atmosphere of friendship and brotherhood.
The relationship between religion and the state in Azerbaijan is well manifested through the attitude towards religious minorities and monuments. The Azerbaijani state is building and restoring not only mosques and other Islamic sites; we are also renovating and building temples belonging to other religions. Azerbaijan is a place where the Zoroastrian temple, the biggest Jewish synagogue in the region, Lutheran parish and other places of worship can be found, including the ancient Albanian-Christian temples and Russian Orthodox Churches. Currently there are more than 300 registered religious communities in the Republic of Azerbaijan, among which 31 are non-Islamic ones.
Pope Benedict XVI praised religious tolerance in Azerbaijan, saying in 2008: “I believe this tolerance can set an example for other former Soviet republics.” According to the agreement between the Government of Azerbaijan and the Vatican, a Roman Catholic Church was constructed in 2007 in Baku.
As in Azerbaijan the protection of Christian and other minorities is firmly guaranteed, we would also like to see positive results of the struggle against Islamophobia in Western countries. Unfortunately, sometimes we witness biased and unfair attitudes towards Islam and Muslims in general. We believe that mutual trust and conciliation between various religious minorities and groups can contribute to the rapprochement not only of different religions, but also cultures and values.
I hope that, some day, our shared values will be found in all countries of the world and that all religious groups and minorities can benefit from these values.
May Ramadan bring you peace and prosperity, good health and wealth, and brighten your life forever!