Montreal City Hall on Thursday hosted a ceremony before officially kicking off Muslim Awareness Week that is slated to take place in the week between between Jan. 25- 31.
“For us, it’s very important this week because it started 29th of January 2017,” said Boufeldja Benabdallah, founder of the Quebec City Islamic Center, refering to the day a gunman entered Benabdallah’s mosque during evening prayers and opened fire. Six people were killed
The event will be held in several mosques including the al-Madinah Centre on Stanley Street of Montreal. There will be various activities including conferences, round table discussions and films during open houses.
“In order to pass on the message that Muslims are like any other Canadian, any other Quebecois, and they would love to build, they would love to achieve, they would love to contribute, and they would love to succeed,” mosque president Bilal Abdul Kader said.
Muslim Awareness Week was launched after the Quebec City mosque shooting in 2017. It was then commemorated the following year, however, some wanted to turn it into an annual event.
“OK, we are commemorating, we remember, Quebec remembers. But how do we build?” Ehab Latoyef, coordinator of the Muslim Awareness Week organizing committee, told Global News.
He thereby took it upon himself in the first annual Muslim Awareness Week in 2019 to help bridge any differences and spread a message of love begin between Muslim and non-Muslims alike.
“It is only by hard work, by reaching out, by, let me say, exposing ourselves so that people would know us, so that they would stop hating us,” he said.
Latoyef also expressed his concern over the passing of Bill 21 which restricts the right of some public servants in positions of authority of wearing religious symbols.
“In the wake of what happened in Quebec City. The last thing anybody would have expected is a bill like Bill 21,” he added.
During the ceremony at City Hall, some Muslims expressed their ideas and wishes about the week’s activities. They believe it will not only benefit the Muslim community but other visible and cultural minorities as well.
“Just to see how, or if we’ve changed as a society, if we’ve opened our eyes, if we’ve opened our hearts more,” said a Muslim participant Sadef Kotwal.
“So we can learn to love and work and live together as one community and not as a very broken up one,” she smilingly added.