Daher: London Muslims’ Noor Gardens initiative aims to serve whole community
Muslims have long been a part of Canada’s social fabric and have helped build many of this country’s most vibrant and active communities.FREE PRESS VOX POPULI Updated: September 29, 2019
Muslims have long been a part of Canada’s social fabric and have helped build many of this country’s most vibrant and active communities. The first recorded Muslims in Canada were James and Agnes Love, who had embraced the Muslim faith in Scotland before immigrating to Ontario in 1854. Since Confederation, Muslims have had a presence in Ontario, particularly in the city of London. In the 1960s, a small group of Lebanese immigrants built the London Muslim Mosque on Oxford Street to serve the small Muslim community at the time.
Two generations later, the London community has grown to more than 30,000 Muslims, many of whom were born and raised here and are coming together to build a new centre – Noor Gardens community centre – in an effort to give back to their community and shape history. Noor Gardens is a project initiated by the Muslim Association of Canada (MAC), the largest Canadian Muslim organization with a long legacy of community development and service across the country.
The world today is witnessing the rise of divisive and hateful rhetoric, which has taken over political arenas, communities, and whole nations. Canadians are actively resisting division by joining together with their neighbours on our shared values, which include upholding human dignity and justice, as well as fulfilling the responsibility to serve the more vulnerable. Noor Gardens has inspired hundreds of Muslim youth who, each day, contend with the uncertain times in which we live.
The centre will offer a peaceful place for spiritual growth with an emphasis on education provided through a future full-time day school, a weekend school and daycare. Centre activities will focus on families and youth, and will include youth programming, social services for new mothers, as well as safe and exciting volunteer opportunities for young people to learn, grow and give back. Other amenities planned include a gym to promote healthy lifestyles, a banquet hall for community events and classes where anyone can access knowledge about Islam and Muslims.
The whole London community is welcome to think of Noor Gardens as their centre, an inclusive and friendly environment where Londoners from all walks of life can join sporting events, open houses and interfaith initiatives. Continuing the MAC nation-wide tradition of serving those afflicted by poverty, Noor Gardens also will be home to our MAC Gives food bank and work closely with other charitable organizations in bringing various support services for those in need.
Noor Gardens is being built by people with deep roots in the London community and the project is leveraging its strong partnerships with established non-profit organizations. Collaboration on community programming and shared missions of advancing the prosperity of Londoners make these partnerships a thing of beauty in today’s world.
Perhaps the extent of this beauty can be best captured by explaining what the word Noor, itself, means. In the Holy Qur’an, an entire chapter is dedicated to the concept of Noor which refers to light, or luminosity. The term is understood by scholars as many things, from illumination of the intellect to generosity, all of which are dependent on mercy and guidance from God. Perhaps the most common way Noor is understood is standing in contrast to zulumat, or darkness, or more aptly, as a metaphor for driving out ignorance and division. Noor Gardens is built on the hope of such light, adding to a longstanding history of London itself, where Muslims and others have always worked together, even in challenging times, to put forth a shining example for others.
Jalal Daher is a resident of London, a member of the Ontario Dental Association with a private practice and is the acting head of MAC’s London chapter.
Original article can be viewed here.