There is no denying that Hamilton’s Muslim community is steadily growing – and Monday’s Eid Al-Fitr celebration at the Mountain Mosque was proof.
Thousands of people came out to mark the end of Ramadan, which is the month in which Muslims fast every day from sunrise to sunset. So many families showed up that they were spilling out of the main area of the Mosque right up to the exits.
Muslim Association of Hamilton President Ali T. Ghouse told CBC Hamilton that growth like that shows the community is thriving. “Canada being the ‘new world’ has always attracted immigrants from hundreds of years ago,” Ghouse said. “They came in waves, depending on the political circumstances and depending on the economic circumstances of the situations in their home countries.”
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'It can be sad, because now you know that you have to wait another year for Ramadan to begin again. So it’s bittersweet.' - Uzma Qureshi, board secretary for the Muslim Association of Hamilton
“What is the driving force here now is families. A lot of educated people who speak English and who have skills. They’re bringing that to Canada.” There are also refugees, coming from Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iraq and Africa, he says.
With so many cultures from so many places under one roof, the mosque becomes a true meeting ground for a wide swath of cultures, says Uzma Qureshi, board secretary for the MAH.
“It’s incredible. Absolutely incredible,” she said. “We always say when you do diversity work you talk about celebrating differences and things like that, but when it comes together under one banner, the unity is incredible. The diversity builds upon our unity.
A mandatory fast
Fasting during Ramadan is mandatory for Muslims, except for people who are ill, travelling, or women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or on their period. The fast also extends to smoking, having sex and sometimes other behaviours that could be interpreted as negative like swearing and procrastination. Food and drink is served before sunrise and after the sun goes down.
The Islamic calendar is lunar, so every so often Ramadan happens during the summer. That means longer, hot days and longer fasts — something that can be very trying. But even though there’s a physical toll, Qureshi says she’ll miss it. Members of the mosque get used to coming together for nightly prayers, further fostering a sense of unity.
“It can be sad, because now you know that you have to wait another year for Ramadan to begin again. So it’s bittersweet,” she said.
Police chief Glenn De Caire was also on hand Monday morning to extend well wishes from the police service, and to address an attack on two Muslim brothers from Egypt that happened earlier this month. Twin brothers Moustafa Algamal and Mahmoud Elgamal were jumped just after evening prayers at the Downtown Mosque.
'We stand united'
“We as a community came together, and we did not react because we responded. And there is a significant difference between reacting and responding,” De Caire told the crowd of about 3,500 people. “We responded together as a community standing shoulder to shoulder to send a message that we will not tolerate this sort of behavior in Hamilton.
“We stand united and we will be one.”
No charges have been laid in relation to the incident, police spokesperson Debbie McGreal-Dinning said in an email Monday morning. “It is still under investigation and is being followed up,” she said.
That attack isn’t indicative of how Hamilton’s Muslim community is treated as a whole in Canada, Ghouse said. “This is an outlier. This is a rare case of ignorant, uneducated unaware individuals who take things into their hands,” he said.
“The majority of our neighbours as Canadians are extremely friendly and supportive.”