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Our Humble Beginning...

In As You Like It, William Shakespeare wrote, “Sweet are the uses of adversity…” the truth of which is attested to in the formation of The Edmonton Council of Muslim Communities. For out of the misery of September 11, 2001 and the subsequent backlash against Muslims, a handful of individuals within the Muslim community, understanding the need for collective action, conceived of the idea for what is now a vibrant and active umbrella organization of Muslim groups, mosques and communities in Edmonton.

It all began after a group of informal and formal leadership met with the, then mayor Bill Smith in October of 2001. They came together to discuss how the city and the community might work collectively in order to reduce or eliminate acts of racism against Muslims in Edmonton. Present at that meeting included Sine Chadi, Shaukat Moloo, Javaid Naqvi, Larry Shaben and Khalid Tarrabain. 

The value of collective action, the comfort of working with those with whom you share particular bonds, served to generate the desire for another meeting in order to explore the possibility of forming an umbrella organization that could act collectively in an ongoing capacity. One week after the meeting with Bill Smith, a larger group of individuals and community leaders met at the Canadian Islamic Centre to continue the conversation. At this meeting it was agreed that the time had come to lay aside any differences in order to focus on addressing common concerns faced by Muslims in Edmonton.

In November 2001 an agreement had been reached by a broad range of community and organizational leaders to undertake a series of workshops in order to co-create a vision and mission that would guide the collective efforts of the Muslim community in Edmonton.

Under the expert and careful facilitation of Iqbal Jamal, a member of the Ismaili Community of Edmonton, representatives of several key Muslim organizations and mosques gathered together to explore their collective aspirations for the Muslim community of Edmonton.

Right from the outset what marked this as a trail-blazing venture was that all of the founding members agreed that the key to success would be for all involved to ‘park their egos at the door’. What this meant in practice was that very particular interests, that is those interests of concern to some but not all member organizations,  are temporarily set aside in order to pursue the shared goals of the group. Since the organization represents a sizeable majority of the Muslim community in Edmonton, this practice ensures that differences are respected but are not the focus of the group’s energies.

This is not to say that the group is disinterested in learning more about one another. Early on it was identified as one of the group’s goals that they would learn more about one another’s communities. So, on a regular basis during business meetings, various members of the board share background information about their respective communities and organizations.

One of the factors that enables this kind of openness to difference are The Edmonton Council of Muslim Communities Terms of Reference and By-laws which clearly enshrines a cores set of values that enables the group to honour ‘unity in diversity’. These values include humility, open communication, non-violence in thought, word and deed, integrity, transparency and set of three values which speak to the value of working with a plurality of perspectives while continually identifying unifying values, principles and issues.

It must be noted, that during these early years of the Council, the leadership of Larry Shaben was pivotal. Not only did he work tirelessly on behalf of the many initiatives undertaken by this young organization but his integrity, fairness and commitment to the values of The Edmonton Council of Muslim Communities proved to provide an exemplary model for all.

Today, representatives from nine mosques and organizations sit on the Council and have, in a very short period of time, established their sincerity and efficacy. Since their inception in 2001 ECMC has worked tirelessly to promote a deeper understanding of Islam and the Muslim community to the wider Edmonton community as well as promoting understanding and solidarity among the various communities within the broader Muslim Community.

Specific accomplishments, since 2001 include

    • The development of  a working relationship with Alberta Learning in order to help shape social studies curriculum

    • Liaising  with numerous political leaders as well as political candidates

    • Participating in numerous interfaith dialogues

    • Supporting local institutions such as the Edmonton Police Service Hate/Bias initiative both as a multilateral partner and in dialogue with the Jewish community

    • Increasing the Muslim communities commitment to community service through such activities as the annual inner city Eid Dinner  as well as fundraising for disaster relief

    • Promoting scholarship through the establishment of a Chair in Islamic Studies at the University of Alberta

    • Becoming the main contact point for media and others on issues related to Muslims and Islam

    • Taking a community approach in dealing with levels of government – for example zoning of the Islamic Academy

    • Responding, as appropriate, to government’s policies on matters affecting Muslims

The Edmonton Council of Muslim Communities' commitment to serve and promote the shared interests of Muslims in Edmonton is a beacon to other Muslim communities across Canada and the United States, who see ECMC as the prototype of a new age of Muslim cooperation wherein differences are respected and a common cause serves as a force of unity.


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