Muslim community in northwestern Canada grows into its new mosque

Afternoon prayer at the mosque in downtown Whitehorse (Meagan Deuling)
Nearly 20 men pray together in the dying sunlight on a Friday afternoon in late December. They kneel and rise in unison on a thick carpet.

“It’s pretty thick and a good looking carpet and it gives the feel of a real mosque,” said Muhammed Javed, the president of the Yukon Muslim Society.

It is a real mosque, Yukon’s first. It opened in September and it’s a big step for the territory’s growing Muslim community Javed explained.

“I remember when I moved here 18 years ago when we were only two families,” said Javed. “Now we are close to 40-plus families …. we’re definitely growing, growing by day.”

Muhammed Javed is the president of the Yukon Muslim Society (Meagan Deuling)

Right now, the mosque is used for daily prayers and small meetings. Soon, Javed hopes the Muslim community, and Whitehorse at large, will get more use out of it.

Javed points out a section of the room that’s partitioned off, with its own entrance. He said it’s for women who want privacy when they pray.

Under the thick carpet is a shiny marble floor. There’s a sunken trough in the entrance way, with three taps and three stools — Javed said it’s for people to wash before praying.

Once appliances are installed the Yukon Muslim Society will host community dinners at the mosque (Meagan Deuling)
Hosting community dinners

In one corner of the main room is a small, unfinished kitchen. They don’t have appliances yet, but Javed said that once they do, early this year, the Muslim society will lay down mats to protect the carpet and set up tables and chairs to host community dinners.

“It will be it will be a different vibe in the community,” Javed said, “different communities are welcome to join us and have celebrations.”

Javed said once the kitchen is ready the centre will also be available for other community groups to rent out.

That will generate income for the Muslim Society. Right now it makes money by collecting donations from members, and by renting out a suite attached to the mosque.

But Javed said the community needs to continue to grow, so it can eventually support a permanent Imam, a spiritual leader for the community. When they get one, the Imam will live in the suite.

This is where people wash before prayer. Before the mosque opened people had to line up to wash at a single sink at the office space they rented (Meagan Deuling)

In order to support a permanent Imam, the Muslim society will need to generate between $4,000 and $5,000 a month, Javed said.

Although it’s growing, Javed said the Muslim community in Whitehorse is still very small.

“We don’t have that kind of funds so far,” said Javed. “So hopefully with the growing community and sometime in the near future probably we might be able to support it.”

The hope is that as the Muslim community expands, the mosque and the services it provides to the community will, too.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Observing Ramadan in Canada’s Arctic, Radio Canada International

Norway: Immigration curbs population decline in Norway’s northernmost county, The Independent Barents Observer

Meagan Deuling, CBC News

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