Muslim Albertans have long played a significant role in building our province and country, from the pioneering settlers of what today is known as Lebanon and Syria who took their carts door-to-door to supply rural prairie residents with food and home goods, to the Muslim workers who helped build our rail lines and grain elevators, to the community leaders that came together to make Edmonton the proud home of Canada’s first Mosque.
More recent trailblazers include the late Lila Fahlman, a friend and personal hero of mine who was the first Muslim woman in Canada to serve on a public school board and an ardent advocate of pluralism. Lila’s early leadership in encouraging understanding between people of different faiths, cultures and walks of life is particularly resonant for us today. We also remain rightfully proud of the contributions of people like the late Honourable Larry Shaben who was Canada’s first Muslim Cabinet Minister, and the many current Muslim leaders and elected officials who now continue to lead the way as inspiring role models for our young people.
We can each play an active role in writing the history of every multicultural and religious community in our province. We can become engaged in the process of shaping our shared history by taking the time to meet with and listen to people of diverse backgrounds, and by learning about the important strengths that every culture and faith contributes to our society. Together we can continue to write our Canadian story in a way that reflects the welcoming and inclusive spirit that has always shaped who we are. Living as we do in communities that sadly still harbour racist sentiments and Islamophobic attitudes that are rooted in a lack of understanding of “the other”, Islamic History Month is yet another opportunity for education and enlightenment.
As Her Majesty the Queen’s representative in Alberta, I am very pleased to honour all of our Muslim community leaders, past and present. I also offer my heartfelt thanks to everyone who works to ensure that every voice is heard in our society and that all of our stories are celebrated.
Her Honour, the Honourable Salma Lakhani AOE, B.Sc., LLD (hon)
Lieutenant Governor of Alberta