The significance of hosting the city hall iftar was to show Calgary’s Muslim community they are welcome in the city’s “halls of power,” said Coun. Jasmine Mian.
Mian, along with Islamic Relief Canada, hosted the 2nd annual City Hall Iftar at the Municipal Building, outside city council chambers Thursday evening after the first fast of the Holy month of Ramadan. Local Muslim leaders, the community, along with members of city council and administration attended.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and one of the holiest. It’s observed through a month of fasting, prayer, reflection and the community. The Iftar is the evening meal – post sunset – that breaks the fast each day.
With Ramadan beginning Wednesday evening, the first fast was Thursday, with the first Iftar Thursday evening.
Mian told a gathering of roughly 100, the story of the 2021 short film American Eid and the teenage Muslim girl who was forced to assimilate as no one in her new home wanted to celebrate Eid. Despite trying to get petition signatures for her and her sister to get the day off for Eid, it fails.
Then, a teacher works with the girls’ parents to bring Eid to the classroom.
Mian said it was significant because it showed what happens when you move from assimilation to feeling a sense of belonging in the community.
“That’s why it’s important that as a city council who is committed to anti-racism, committed to charting a new path of inclusion, that we host events like this within the halls of power,” she told the gathering.
“This government, all of this, is as much yours as anyone else’s. You’re welcome here, you’re celebrated here, and we’re better off for having you here.”
‘A month of thankfulness’
Local Islamic leader Amanallah Abbas said from the outside looking in, this month looks like one of inconvenience, or unnecessary struggle.
“It is a month of thankfulness as it is a month that for 14 hours of the day, you’re asking them to refrain from food and drink voluntarily or you’re voluntarily removing food and drink from your life for 14 hours a day,” Abbas said.
“But there are people in this world who food and drink, they refrain from it or is removed from their lives, not by their choice.”
He said by going without, it reminds them of their blessings from God.
Rinad Al Adani, the co-chair of Calgary’s Anti-Racism Action Committee, said it’s their committee’s job to oversee and support these types of community-building events. Especially as the city continues to battle racism.
“I’m here to talk about racism. It’s still a thing. It affects everybody,” she said.
Al Adani said racism impacts everyone, whether you’re racialized or not. The good news is, together, it can be fixed, she said.
“We can make a world where people are not judged by what they look like or who they are, but actually by their actions,” Al Adani said.
Coun. Mian said that was one of the reasons for starting the City Hall Iftar last year. She said this was an opportunity to show the city’s Muslim community they belong, rather than just saying it.
“I think that’s a really important way of showcasing all of the diversity that exists within our city. And it means so much to the community to be acknowledged within the halls of power like these. This government belongs to everyone,” Mian said.
“To see that acknowledged is very significant to them. But it’s also really helpful for the rest of the community to break down barriers and just understand each other better.”