(June 9, 2014) – A Muslim Philanthropy Forum, part of a groundbreaking series focused on understanding the philanthropic traditions and interests of diverse communities, was held in Ottawa on June 3.
“It is my pleasure to be here today among a group of people who are compassionate and caring about the world around them,” said Fatma El-Mehelmy, Chair-Muslim Philanthropy Advisory Committee, in her welcoming remarks to the delegates. “This conference has brought together philanthropists, community leaders, fundraisers and volunteers in an effort to start a conversation about how charities are working with the Muslim community in Ontario to advance the causes that we all stand behind.”
The Muslim Philanthropy Forum is part of the Diversity to Inclusion in Philanthropy Series organized by the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy – Canada, in cooperation with the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Toronto and Ottawa chapters.
The series offers inclusion-oriented education, training and networking activities for Ontario-based non-profit leaders, fundraisers, volunteers and donors.
The multi-year initiative, funded through the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration’s Partnership Project Office, features a series of one-day conferences, each focused on the charitable activities of one distinct community group.
“We are delighted to be bringing together many of the stakeholders of the Muslim community to share their insights,” said Fatma El-Mehelmy. “Our Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, taught us that the best among us is the best to humankind.”
The Forum included an inspiring keynote address by Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish.
“One can’t do everything in life, but each of us can do something,” Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish told the attendees. “The more you share the more you will be rewarded with happiness.”
He founded ‘Daughters for Life Foundation’ in 2010 in memory of the horrific tragedy of his three daughters’ and niece’s death in the 2009 Gaza war.
His book, ‘I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey, an autobiography of his loss and transformation has become an international bestseller.
“I don’t know the word impossible, it’s not in my vocabulary,” he said. “Tragedy can’t be the end of our lives, we can’t allow it to control us and defeat us.”
“In the end, it’s not the words of our enemies that matter but the silence of our friends,” added Dr. Abuelaish. “Violence and hatred cross barriers like diseases.”
The day’s program included three panel discussions – a Next Gen Panel, a Fundraisers Panel and a Philanthropists Panel.
“Philanthropy is enlightened self-fulfillment,” remarked Sheherazad Hirji of Agha Khan Foundation during the Philanthropist’s panel.
Muneeb Nasir of the Olive Tree Foundation noted that philanthropy, in the Muslim context, covers a rich spectrum of practice.
“It is about caring – ‘love for others what you love for yourself’, about giving – ‘a virtuous life is attained by giving of what you love most’, and about serving – ‘achieve God’s pleasure by serving people,’ said Nasir.
“One day we’ll get rid of the vocabulary, ‘Muslim community’ and ‘mainstream community’,” said Dr. Safaa Fouda of the Ottawa Muslim Women’s Organization.
“How do organizations leverage the full range of assets at their disposal?” asked Harji. “Fundraisers and impact investors don’t know each other; let’s get together; we are trying to do the same thing.”