Global Muslim leaders gathered at the Ismaili Centre Toronto over the first weekend of October for the closing ceremony of the Concordia Forum, an initiative that brings diverse Muslim leaders together to foster collaboration in response to social problems and discuss Islam’s role in the world.

Canadian Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen and Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress, spoke about the importance of diversity in politics at the event, which also included a performance by Syrian violinist Iman Abdulrazzak.

“My identity as a Muslim has not been a barrier in terms of my ability get elected,” said Ellison, who now serves as the Attorney General of Minnesota, during a fireside chat with Muneeza Sheikh, a board member with the Canadian Muslim Vote, a non-profit that aims to increase Canadian Muslims’ political participation.

Ellison implored young Muslims interested in politics to either “run or help someone else to run,” and focus on their common Islamic values, rather than their differences.

“Don’t count yourself out because of your name or background,” he said. “The former president’s name is Barack Hussein Obama!”

During his address, Minister Hussen said that diversity helps organizations become more resilient.

“When you have a diverse number of people in a room, you get the diversity of opinions,” he said, explaining that serving people with differing backgrounds, languages and perspectives leads businesses, government institutions and non-governmental organizations “to pick up their game” because they have “to work harder to accommodate those different backgrounds and values.”

“If we have any hope of moving forward with the biggest challenges in front of us, we will be saved not by individuals but by institutions that are robust enough to meet those challenges,” he said.

Concordia Forum President Muddassar Ahmed ended the session by explaining he was honoured to have the closing ceremony at the Ismaili Centre.

“It epitomizes what we are trying to do to create a new paradigm,” he explained.

That new paradigm, he explained, is Muslims working together to “focus on the issues.”


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