During the month of Ramadan, Muslims around the world break their daily fast with Iftar, an evening meal observed at sunset. On May 16, 2019, Mayor of Toronto John Tory met guests at the Ismaili Centre, Toronto to enjoy and connect through Iftar festivities.

The celebratory event featured speeches from leadership and devotional performances by Muslim artists. 

Representatives from the Government of Ontario and the Consulates of Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, and the Netherlands were in attendance, and Leaders’ International Forum Chairman and AKDN Representative to Canada Dr. Mahmoud Eboo was also at the event.

Ismaili Council for Ontario President Sheherazade Hirji welcomed the guests.

“The idea of sharing a meal, particularly at the end of fasting, epitomizes a sense of connection and community,” said President Hirji. 

“There is indeed something very comforting and very special about breaking bread together in the spirit of hospitality and openness.”

President Hirji noted that Muslims share the values of “fellowship, generosity, thinking of others, and showing compassion” with Canadians “of every religious tradition.”

In his own speech, Mayor Tory said he has noticed a “spirit of fellowship and humanity” while attending recent Iftar events in Toronto - values that he has seen at the forefront of every Ismaili event he has attended.

“I’d like to say thank you to this community for standing as a sterling example of community service and good citizenship,” said the Mayor, who had joined Muslims in fasting the previous day. 

“I have seen the great acts of generosity and charity that are so much a part of the [Muslim] faith. And that isn’t just something that’s done at Ramadan – it’s something that’s done all year, every year.”

Mayor Tory commended Canadians, and particularly Ismailis, for “celebrating our differences, working hard to support each other, and making sure no one is left to struggle alone” in a world that “seems to be drifting in a direction of division and polarization.”

Hon. Yasmin Ratansi, MP of Don Valley East,  spoke about Iftar being a time to reflect on those who live in parts of the world where people lack food or security and to do what we can to help them.

“In the Muslim tradition, Ramadan is a time of heightened commitment to piety and purification [through] special observance of fasting and performance of good deeds,” said Ratansi, who was the first Muslim woman elected to the House of Commons. 

“Those good deeds are part of who we are.”

MLA of Don Valley East, Hon. Michael Coteau applauded the Ismaili community for initiatives such as Ismaili CIVIC 150. He said Canadians can help alleviate hate and racism by continuing to employ the values that the Islamic tradition brings forward: “compassion, kindness, and generosity.”

“If we want to continue to build that kind of world here, we need to embrace these values,” said Coteau, who previously served as Minister Responsible for Anti-Racism. “It doesn’t matter where you’re from [or] which faith you believe in – these values are universal.”

Coteau also encouraged children to volunteer because “it lowers anxiety levels, it [helps with] their mental health, and it even allows the way their bodies function to improve – so it’s not just about helping others, it’s [also] about helping themselves.”

Various devotional performances entertained guests throughout the evening. Ten-year-old singer Aryanna Gangani performed a form of poetry known as a qasida, while spoken word artist Nida Noorani delivered a Ramadan monologue about reflection, devotion, generosity, and community.

As the sun set over the Aga Khan Park, guests were offered dates and water to break their fast and invited to the social hall to partake in refreshments.

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