CAIRO - Recognizing their contributions to the society, the Muslim community in the Canadian capital, Ottawa, has held a special ceremony to honor its members who were granted the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.
It's a blessing to see so many people coming together to serve their country, Mohammed Zakaria Khan, president of the Muslim Coordinating Council (MCC), told Ottawa Citizen.The MCC and the Ottawa Muslim Association have held a ceremony to honor 20 MCC members who were granted the Diamond Jubilee Medal for serving Canadian society.
For Khan, the ceremony at the Ottawa Mosque on Northwestern Avenue was an important display of unity.
We are trying to work together. We are Canadian, he said.
It doesn't matter where you come from or what your faith is. We are one nation and under one flag.
Among the 20 medal recipients were Maher Arar, the Ottawa electrical engineer whose story of imprisonment and torture in Syria after the 9/11 attacks shed a light on the excesses of the war on terrorism.
Also honored were his Arar's wife and Ottawa academic and human rights campaigner Monia Mazigh.
Also on the list was Wafa Dabbagh, a lieutenant-commander in the Royal Canadian Navy, who was the first woman in the Canadian military to wear a hijab. She died of cancer in June 2012.
Gathering under the banner of helping the less fortunate and disadvantaged, the MCC represents 16 mosques and 40 Muslim organizations in Canada.
The group has been recognized for its role in helping the disadvantaged to become productive members of society as well as helping resettling new immigrants.
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.
Blood donating campaigns, organized in coordination with Canadian Blood Service, remained as a source of pride for the Muslim community, receiving overwhelming response each time.
Attendants praised the positive role Muslims play in Canadian society.
MP Paul Dewar, the New Democratic Party (NDP) foreign affairs critic and keynote speaker, said the recipients demonstrated in the best way Canadian principles.
It was a very conscious decision on your part to open your doors and open your hearts, Dewar said.
The guests at the ceremony included Mayor Jim Watson, Councilor Eli El-Chantiry, MPP Phil McNeely and MP Royal Galipeau.
The master of ceremonies for the evening was Anwar Ul Haq, who himself arrived in Canada with his family from Pakistan in 2000.
We live in the best country in the world, Ul Haq said.
We are enjoying the bounty of those who came before us. It's our duty to honor it.
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.
Created in 2011, the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal was made to mark the 60th anniversary of the accession to the thrones of Queen Elizabeth II.The medal also serves to honor significant contributions and achievements by Canadians.