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Muslims mark anniversary with Fort McMurray donations

Thousands of dollars, and about one million pounds of food, were raised for relief efforts in Fort McMurray on Sunday, as Ahmadiyya Muslims gathered to mark 50 years since their arrival in Canada.

Hundreds of members of the Muslim sect braved the rain in Nathan Phillips Square for what organizers described as both an anniversary celebration and a "thank you" to Canada.

"Coming to Canada was one of the greatest blessings of Allah we have received … where everyone can be together and flourish in their respective communities and be successful together in life and in faith," Lal Khan Malik, the national president of Ahmadiyya Muslim community, told the crowd.

The sect formed in India in the 19th century but is considered heretical by some Muslims and governments. Sunday's celebrations marked 50 years since the arrival of the first Ahmadiyya Muslim from Pakistan.

"We came to this country as a persecuted community," spokesman Safwan Choudhry told CBC News.

"This is an opportunity for us to give back and be thankful to Canada."

He acknowledged but downplayed the Islamophobia that members of his and the broader Muslim community sometimes face, expressing his belief that the "vast majority" of Canadians are not prejudiced.

Choudhry said all proceeds from the event will go to help victims of the Fort McMurray wildfire.

Mayor John Tory told the crowd about the first time he met Malik, 30 years ago, and his appreciation for the faith's commitment and compassion.

"I came to learn over time it is not just a community of faith, which it is, but it is a community that's committed to building Canada and to caring about other Canadians," Tory said.

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