VANCOUVER - Fulfilling a long awaited dream, Muslims in North Vancouver are preparing for the inauguration of their first mosque in the city, breathing a new life in their society and help the Muslim community feel that they are part of the society.
"This is basically the community's mosque," Ar-Rahman mosque acting Imam Abu Abdus-Salaam told North Shore News on Sunday, April 28.
It belongs to North Vancouver and everyone's welcome here.
Serving the Muslim community in North Vancouver, the mosque is located on the former site of St. Richard's Anglican Church.
The centre is expected to attract about 100 faithful Muslims for Friday prayers each week after years of offering prayers from rented recreation centers.
"We used to be renting beside Capilano University on Friday only. We used to have about 20 guys at the most," he says.
"Now we are having close to 100."
Neighbors, Muslims, and anyone else with an interest in the mosque will be welcome at the official opening, which is tentatively scheduled for the beginning of May, according to Abdus-Salaam.
"In Islam, there is no membership to any mosque. There is no barrier to anyone. There is no distinction when they come here," he says.
"When we stand there we don't know who is standing beside us except we know it's another Muslim. . . . You can be standing, literally beside a beggar, or literally you can be standing next to a billionaire."
The inauguration followed a year of working on the mosque after purchasing the site for $3.05 million.
Over the past year, the mosque has succeeded in asserting the rights of neighbors, overcoming their worries.
"They were a little uneasy at the very beginning because they thought that this would be a lot of high-traffic and a lot congestion and a lot of noise," he says.
However, with most congregations limited to one hour, there haven't been any issues with neighbors thus far, he says.
The construction of the mosque was largely the product of extensive Muslim efforts in North Vancouver.
There's a lot of money, volunteer and effort that was put into it by members of the community, Abdus-Salaam said.
Had it been a full, professional and business venture, it could've been done in a year.
The new center would offer Muslims the services they have yearned for over the past decades.
"Learning takes place here, problems are solved here, conflicts are resolved in this place, people are getting married here, people will be divorced here if they have to according to Islamic law, I mean the Shariah," Abdus-Salaam said.
There are also plans to attain a funeral home license to conduct funerals at the mosque.
"We're about to secure our own burial plot where Muslims can be buried," he added.
The mosque may also incorporate a daycare, and plans are underway to build a small playground on its lot.
The mosque includes four classrooms as well as a kitchen.
For Muslims, the glass-covered building offers a better opportunity to offer the larger community a transparent view onto Muslim worshipping sites.
We don't want people to be passing on the road and say, 'What goes on within the walls here?' For those reasons, we make it as transparent as possible," Abdus-Salaam said.
Muslims make around 1.9 percent of Canada's 32.8 million population, and Islam is the number one non-Christian faith in the Roman Catholic country.
A recent survey showed that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are proud to be Canadian, and that they are more educated than the general population.