TORONTO - Two blind Canadian Muslim sisters have been recognized with Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medals for their efforts in advocating for disabled people.
It was indeed an honor to be in the company of renowned media personalities, armed forces personnel, artists and others working to make Canada and the world a healthier and safer place, Rabia Khedr told OnIslam.net after receiving the medal.
Khedr and her younger sister Uzma Khan were awarded Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medals for their efforts in advocating for disabled people.
The blind Muslim sisters were among more than 600 Canadian receiving the medals at Toronto's Roy Thomson Hall last week.
I certainly felt proud to be Canadian, Khedr said.
The two Muslim sisters lost their sight to retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic disorder.
Khedr is a well-known Canadian Muslim who has worked tirelessly to raise awareness around disability issues.
As the eldest of four siblings, she quickly learnt to lead.
I have two brothers, both of whom have intellectual disabilities and a baby sister with the same eye condition, Khedr said.
I had to take on a leadership role in the house out of necessity.
Before university, she had not given diversity or religious identity much thought.
At university, she became actively involved with the Muslim Students Association (MSA) where she played a leadership role within the association but never stepped into the limelight. Her activism increased after university.
Proud Muslim; Proud Canadian
Within days of graduation, Khedr started wearing a hijab.
It was coming to terms with the whole package of my identity, she said.
If I'm going to have to use a cane to identify myself as blind or legally blind, I also have to be ready to identify myself as Muslim.
Khedr went on to found the Canadian Association of Muslim with Disabilities (CAM-D), whose mission is to work toward an inclusive society by promoting principles of accessibility.
Khedr, who is married and has four children, runs her own consultancy company and she has consulted for the Canadian Association for Community Living and Providence Health Care.
She sits on the board of the Ontario Women's Health Network and is a member of the City of Mississauga Accessibility Advisory Committee.
Khedr's younger sister, Uzma Khan, has also been active in disability issues.
Khan works in information technology with a Canadian bank and was vice-chair of the former Accessibility Advisory Council of Ontario.
In keeping with the tradition of honoring Queen Elizabeth II milestone years of service, the commemorative medal has been created to mark the 60th anniversary of Queen's accession to the Throne.
The medal also serves to honor the contributions and achievements made by Canadians from all sectors of society.
I am glad that the Lieutenant Governor recognized my work as an activist and particularly the work around accessibility for Muslims with Disabilities through CAM-D to nominate me for this recognition, Khedr said.
There is no other place that I would be proud to call home than Canada and to be recognized as 1 in the 60,000 Canadians receiving the medal is indeed an honor.
Canada is a parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy with the Queen as Sovereign.
As a constitutional monarch, the Queen abides by the decisions of the Canadian Government, but she continues to play important ceremonial and symbolic roles.
Muslims make around 2.8 percent of Canada's 32.8 million population.A recent survey showed that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are proud to be Canadian, and that they are more educated than the general population.