VANCOUVER - Fulfilling a long-awaited dream, Canadian Muslims in North Vancouver are preparing for opening their first mosque, breathing a new life in their society and helping their community feel that they are part of the society.
"This is basically the community's mosque," acting imam of Ar-Rahman mosque Sheikh Abu Abdus-Salaam told North Shore News on Sunday, April 28.
It belongs to North Vancouver and everyone's welcome here.
The mosque, located on the former site of St. Richard's Anglican Church, will be officially opened at the beginning of May.
It is expected to attract about 100 Muslim worshippers for the weekly Friday prayers 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 said.
"Now we are having close to 100."
Sheikh Abdus-Salam says non-Muslim neighbors and anyone with an interest in the mosque will be welcome at the official opening.
"In Islam, there is no membership to any mosque. There is no barrier to anyone. There is no distinction when they come here," he said.
"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 mosque's inauguration follows a year of working on the Muslim worship place after purchasing the site for $3.05 million.
Over the past year, mosque officials have worked to ease worries of neighbors.
"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 said.
However, with most congregations limited to one hour, there have not been any issues with neighbors thus far, he said.
The construction of the mosque was largely the product of extensive efforts by Muslims in North Vancouver.
There's a lot of money, volunteer and effort that was put into it by members of the community, Sheikh Abdus-Salaam said.
Had it been a full, professional and business venture, it could've been done in a year.
The new mosque 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 Shari`ah," 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 worship place also 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," Sheikh 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.