The Federal Government honours Muslim community leaders with a special award

January 23, 2023

The Federal Government honours Muslim community leaders with Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee Award

Since its inception in 1997, the Muslim Association of Canada (MAC) has grown to become Canada’s largest Muslim grassroots organization within 25 years, through the tawfeeq of Allah (swt). From humble beginnings, a small group of dedicated volunteers worked with a vision to establish an Islamic presence in Canada for the community through MAC. Today hundreds of members and thousands of volunteers across the nation have shaped the organization. Through the permission of Allah (swt), MAC has grown to include 13 chapters and operate 22 mosques and community centres and 30 schools right across the country. MAC currently employs over 1000 Canadians, engages several thousand volunteers from local communities, and serves more than 150,000 members of the Canadian Muslim community annually.

As Mississauga-Erin Mills MP Iqra Khalid and Mississauga-Lakeshore MP Charles Souza presented recognitions to our community members, they shared their reflections on what MAC means to the community:

“MAC is an amazing institution. MAC has grown so much over the years. As we grow as a community and as we go to the next generation, we pass on the legacy of community service and the legacy of who we are as Muslims to our young people. This is what MAC is about, what it has always been about, and what it will continue to be about. I will continue to make sure that MAC will continue to strive and continue to be one of the strongest institutions of what Canada’s pillars are going to look like tomorrow for our young people.”

MP Iqra Khalid

“Thank you, to all of you, for all of your work, for the benefit of the community, for the benefit of the students you represent and for ensuring that people learn and appreciate the Islamic faith and the work you do for the community.”

MP Charles Souza

As Muslims we believe that our service and consistent dedication to humanity and community development is for the sake of Allah(swt).  However, we are also reminded about when the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said,

“Whoever does not thank people has not thanked Allah.”
عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ‏ لاَ يَشْكُرُ اللَّهَ مَنْ لاَ يَشْكُرُ النَّاسَ

Source: Sunan Abī Dāwūd 4811

This year the Federal Government is awarding Canadians with the Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee award, a special award presented to recognize and honour individuals who have made significant and long-term contributions to Canada, and have demonstrated outstanding service in areas such as public service, volunteerism, philanthropy, arts and culture, environmental stewardship and innovation. 

We are proud and honoured to announce that five leaders in the Muslim community, and individuals who have worked tirelessly to build the Muslim Association of Canada from its inception, have been awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal. 

These esteemed individuals have committed themselves to meaningfully champion causes in the arenas of justice, education, and community development in this country over the past decades. 

It is with great joy that we extend our congratulations to the five recipients.

1- Br. Sharaf Sharafeldin

Br. Sharaf Sharafeldin is a leader in Canada’s charitable sector. He holds  an Executive Program MBA from the University of Ottawa.   He has led the growth of the largest Muslim charity in Canada over the last two decades. Today, by the will of Allah(swt), MAC has become one of the best governed organizations in the Muslim charitable sector, Alhamdulillah.

Through his leadership, Allah(swt) has enabled MAC to become a bridge between Canada’s thriving Muslim community, government and other stakeholders. As a result of his years of sector experience, knowledge, and perspective, Br. Sharafeldin is often consulted by federal, provincial and municipal governments on emerging issues that impact the Muslim community. He is also a regular contributor to public discussion on issues impacting the sector and the community.

Muslims in Canada worked tirelessly to establish a community. Through 1980’s, 1990’s, and 2000’s, Muslims in Canada were trying to build a narrative of what it means to be a Muslim and authentically live Islam in Canada, build frameworks for grounded identity formations that could nurture upcoming generations, and support local community-needs. Br. Sharafeldin has played a primary leadership role in helping to build this narrative and provide the Muslim community the institutions it needs to thrive.

Br Sharaf Sharafeldin was one of the founders of MAC. He has been the Executive Director of MAC since its inception. Given the growth of MAC, he lately took on the challenge of becoming the President-Strategy of the organization. He was recently named as one of the Top 30 Canadian Social Purpose Newsmakers of 2022.” Mourad Mhiri, Chairman of the Board

2- Br. Abdullatif Bakbak

Br. Abdullatif Bakbak holds a Master’s from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia and has dedicated over two decades of his life to serving the Canadian Muslim community and advancing Islamic education in Canada. He has developed a comprehensive framework for Islamic private school education that is currently being implemented successfully across many schools run by the Muslim Association of Canada and other organizations, Alhamdulillah.

He is committed to continuing his work as President-Executive of MAC in overseeing the operations of the organization across the country. Br. Abdullatif Bakbak is an invaluable asset to the Canadian Muslim community.

His innovative approach to improving the quality of Islamic education has had a lasting impact on the Muslim community in Canada, providing students with Islamic tarbiyah, knowledge and skills they need to become constructive citizens of society. Br. Abdullatif led the development of Olive Grove School, which has become a model for educational institutions across Canada, providing excellence in Islamic education, academic performance and personal development. The commitment of Br. Abdullatif towards creating a better future for the Muslim community has made Olive Grove School an example of success and leadership in the education system. 

Br. Abdullatif has played an important role in the institution of MAC. Namely, he was the principal and one of the people who led the work at Olive Grove School, which became, to say the least, the benchmark for Islamic education in Canada. Recently, he has become the President-Executive – he runs the operations of the association across Canada.” Mourad Mhiri, Chairman of the Board

3- Sr. Lamia Ben Jemaa

Dr. Ben Jemaa is a Tunisian-Canadian woman who has committed her life to building communities of individuals around her, through social, academic, and community spheres. Dr. Ben Jemaa was in her last year of high school when she arrived in Canada in 1987 alone at the age of 18. 

She was one of just 30 students in Tunisia who had been awarded the Canadian International Development Agency’s (CIDA) Technology Transfer scholarship.  Dr. Ben Jemaa graduated from the University of Toronto with a Master’s and PhD in Electrical Engineering, and became a Professor at Seneca College thereafter.

Since her arrival, Dr. Ben Jemaa has committed the last 35 years of her life to building communities in Ontario through grassroots projects.  As a visible Muslim woman in the community, she has been a role model and mentor to many women and a symbol of female empowerment, Alhamdulillah. Through her various capacities, she has nurtured a sense of pride and a strong Canadian Muslim identity among thousands of women, by the mercy of Allah(swt).

Her life’s work has particularly revolved around community development and women’s empowerment.  Dr. Ben Jemaa has actively engaged and been an educational leader.  She served as the Chairperson of the Managing Board of Olive Grove School and has served as the Manager of MAC’s Al-Huda Schools for MAC’s part-time schools which provide quality Islamic education for thousands of children across the country.  She has worked to train school administration, as well as develop seamless infrastructure systems for the programs.  

This award is to someone who has been so instrumental and an inspiration to women everywhere. She is one of those individuals who have been trailblazers, who have opened the doors so other women can also succeed and be appreciated, and ensure no one is left behind. You bring courage and leadership for the benefit of others. She is someone who deserves to have her picture on our dollar bills because women everywhere can be remembered and appreciated for the ability to teach others and to ensure that there are rights for everyone. You have stood tall and strong for that. Thank you for what you do.” MP Charles Souza

4- Sheikh Mohammad Zahid

Sheikh Mohammad Zahid is a successful Canadian business leader in Canada’s energy sector and internationally. He also holds an MBA from the University of Toronto and has been residing in Canada since 1991.

Sheikh Mohammad Zahid serves as an advisor to Canadian Muslim organizations on strategic planning and governance, and Islamic jurisprudence. He has helped establish many Canadian Muslim institutions. He is the former chair of Toronto-Islamic Centre of Downtown Toronto, a former chair of the Islamic Community Centre of Ontario. He currently serves on the board of the Canadian Muslim Public Affairs Council.

Sheikh Mohammad Zahid has studied the Islamic sciences extensively under the guidance of his late father and has been blessed to meet and learn from many Muslim scholars from around the world. He is a leading Canadian scholar and renowned for his robust expertise in Islamic sciences. He is a regular lecturer and a khateeb across the Greater Toronto Area. He has authored and translated a number of books in both Arabic and English.

We appreciate the work you have done as a man who came to this country 30 years ago, and contributed to the founding of this organization. It is tremendous work.” MP Charles Souza

5- Br. Ahmad Attia

Br. Ahmad Attia is a businessman and entrepreneur who has dedicated his life, professionally and through his volunteerism, to advancing human rights, community and social causes, Alhamdulillah. With over 15 years of experience in risk and crisis management, he currently serves as CEO of both Incisive Strategy. He currently serves as the Vice Chair of the Peel Police Services Board, a member of the Human Rights Watch Canada board, and a board member of the Muslim Council of Peel. 

Br. Ahmad has been very focused on transforming Peel Police Service to be more progressive,  innovative, and modern and has improved the method by which the Board establishes its priorities and the strategic plan.  Br. Ahmad has actively worked on initiatives with the Ontario Human Rights Commission to combat systemic racism and anti-black racism; prioritize mental health intervention; and participate in a study on  governance and oversight of policing by the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto.  Br. Ahmad regularly writes on police governance in various policing topics in the Globe and Mail, National Post, Toronto Star, Mississauga News, and inSauga News to raise awareness.

Br. Ahmad has been an active member of the MAC community, engaging in countless community development projects and initiatives with excellence over the past decades and inspiring youth towards excellence in community service. Ahmad led the establishment of the Islamic Community Centre of Ontario.

“Ahmad Attia is a leader in our community who is dedicated to social justice and public service through numerous civic engagement projects. He is also the first Muslim member to serve on the Peel Police Services Board and has demonstrated leadership on some of the major issues of our generation.”  MP Iqra Khalid

Dr. El-Tantawy Attia, MP Iqra Khalid, Br. Abdullatif Bakbak, Br. Sharaf Sharafeldin, Br. Ahmad Attia (Left to Right)

In addition to these five individuals, in 2009, MAC was also proud of Dr. El-Tantawy Attia and Br. Abdussalam Nakua who were recognised for their community service and awarded the Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for their immense contributions to communities across Canada.

MAC would also like to recognise Br. Mustafa Farooq, former CEO of NCCM, and Br. Mohamed Khadim, who helped establish MAC’s Masjid Toronto and founded the Islamic Institute of Toronto, for also receiving the Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal.

May Allah(swt) accept the efforts and sacrifice of these individuals and their families and bless them in multitudes, inshaAllah.  May Allah(swt) continue to bless our community with individuals who serve important causes around them and build a legacy of Islamic presence in Canada that is rooted in the worship of Allah(swt). 

يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ ٱرْكَعُوا۟ وَٱسْجُدُوا۟ وَٱعْبُدُوا۟ رَبَّكُمْ وَٱفْعَلُوا۟ ٱلْخَيْرَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ 77
وَجَـٰهِدُوا۟ فِى ٱللَّهِ حَقَّ جِهَادِهِۦ ۚ هُوَ ٱجْتَبَىٰكُمْ وَمَا جَعَلَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِى ٱلدِّينِ مِنْ حَرَجٍۢ ۚ مِّلَّةَ أَبِيكُمْ إِبْرَٰهِيمَ ۚ هُوَ سَمَّىٰكُمُ ٱلْمُسْلِمِينَ مِن قَبْلُ وَفِى هَـٰذَا لِيَكُونَ ٱلرَّسُولُ شَهِيدًا عَلَيْكُمْ وَتَكُونُوا۟ شُهَدَآءَ عَلَى ٱلنَّاسِ ۚ فَأَقِيمُوا۟ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ وَءَاتُوا۟ ٱلزَّكَوٰةَ وَٱعْتَصِمُوا۟ بِٱللَّهِ هُوَ مَوْلَىٰكُمْ ۖ فَنِعْمَ ٱلْمَوْلَىٰ وَنِعْمَ ٱلنَّصِيرُ 78

“O believers! Bow down, prostrate yourselves, worship your Lord, and do ˹what is˺ good so that you may be successful. Strive for the cause of Allah in the way He deserves, for it is He Who has chosen you, and laid upon you no hardship in the religion—the way of your forefather Abraham. It is Allah Who named you the ones who submit in the earlier Scriptures and in this Quran, so that the Messenger may be a witness over you, and that you may be witnesses over humanity. So establish prayer, pay alms-tax, and hold fast to Allah. He alone is your Guardian. What an excellent Guardian, and what an excellent Helper!

Qur’an, 22:77-78

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