Photo courtesy of www.un.org.

Muslim Community Remembers Aleppo This Holiday Season

A prominent member of Windsor’s Muslim community hopes Canadians will use the tragedy in Aleppo to count their blessings this Christmas.

As of Friday, 7,500 civilians and rebel fighters had been evacuated from the Syrian city. The evacuation is part of a cease-fire agreement between the Syrian government and rebels. The Syrian army is conducting a final sweep of the city to clear the last of the rebels.

Maher El-Masri, chair of the Windsor Islamic Council, has reflected a lot about the political situation in the Middle East since immigrating to Canada 15 years ago from the Gaza Strip.

“Growing up in Palestine, all the countries around us were not under occupation — and I looked at the neighbouring countries like Syria, like Iraq, like Libya. Yes. They had their dictatorships, but they were reasonably stable countries,” he says. “There was no sectarian conflict amongst them. There was no radicalization like we see these days. Some of these societies were flourishing societies.”

El-Masri admits the conflict in Syria is complicated, but he hopes it will make Canadians think twice about their own problems.

“Count your blessings and don’t take anything for granted,” says El-Masri. “And feel for those who are less fortunate.”

The Windsor Islamic Council is holding the second of two blood drives Saturday. Masri says at the last one, last month, about 30 people came out and donated blood. He expects around 50 today.

The council is also doing its part to help the less fortunate this holiday season. Last Thursday, it donated $2,500 to help the Salvation Army in Leamington towards its goal, and Friday night handed over another cheque for $2,500 to the Unemployed Help Centre in Windsor.

“Sometimes I get scared when I see the changing atmosphere where there is a rise in xenophobia, in Islamaphobia, in racism, in sexism,” Maher says. “We have to be careful. We are much stronger together.”