'Little mosque on the tundra' opensOne of the world's most northerly mosques has opened in Inuvik, N.W.T., where the Arctic town's growing Muslim community is celebrating its new place of worship.
Affectionately being dubbed "the little mosque on the tundra," the Midnight Sun Mosque and community centre officially opened at a ceremony Wednesday afternoon.
The beige mosque has made a 4,000-kilometre journey by road and river from Manitoba, where it was built, through two provinces and the Northwest Territories to the Arctic town.
While not the first mosque in Inuvik, a town of about 3,200 people, the new building is a significant improvement from the small one-bedroom trailer local Muslims prayed in during the past decade.
"It's a very personal achievement for all of us because we were in a small building, the old one, and now we have this one," Ahmed al-Khalaf, who helped organize fundraising efforts for the mosque, told CBC News.
"For the whole town of Inuvik, it's another new building in town, and everybody's welcome here," he added.
More room for prayerThe new mosque sits next to a 10-metre minaret topped with a crescent moon. (CBC)
The 1,554-square-foot mosque has room for a kitchen, a library and a children's playroom. Unlike the old trailer, the new building has a room for women to pray in.
The main prayer hall, which is divided into sections for men and women, has a luxurious red carpet, which was donated by a man in Dubai.
News of the mosque's arrival inspired Fathallah Faragat, a carpenter from St. Catharines, Ont., to travel to Inuvik to help with final preparations to the building.
Faragat even designed and built a 10-metre-tall minaret, with a crescent moon on top, next to the new mosque.
Dozens of Muslim families in Inuvik have had to send their children to live elsewhere in Canada because there was no mosque or Islamic education centre in town.
While Inuvik's Islamic community is small — only about 100 members — it is growing, prompting the need for a bigger mosque.
The Zubaidah Tallab Foundation, a Manitoba-based Islamic charity, raised more than $300,000 to build and ship the structure north. That saved Inuvik's Islamic community tens of thousands of dollars in labour and material costs, which tend to be higher in the North.
In September, the completed mosque travelled by flatbed truck through Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, then up to Hay River, N.W.T., where it was put on the last barge of the year and floated down the Mackenzie River to Inuvik.
A remarkable story:
Inuvik is an arctic town in Canada's Northwest Territories with a population of about 3,500 people. It's located right at the tip of North America facing the Arctic Ocean. With a polar climate and harsh living conditions, one wouldn't expect to find a town there, let alone a town with Muslims.But there is a Muslim community there and a growing one, too.So much so that the trailer that was being used as the mosque ran out of room and this community now needed a new masjid. Building a masjid in the Arctic, however, is far more complicated than it is anywhere else. The scarcity of skilled labour and material makes the cost of such a project skyrocket and this undertaking is simply impossible for a small community of a 100 people. Their situation is akin to that of the Muslims in Edmonton, who despite all odds managed to erect Canada's first masjid in 1938.
With faith in God anything is possible.
At a time like this, the Inuvik Muslims could have simply prayed for a masjid to be shipped over. And that's exactly what they were about to get. Enter, the Zubaidah Tallab Foundation. The Zubaidah Tallab Foundation is a charity based out of Manitoba. The remarkable individuals at this organization decided to give the Inuvikans a hand and took it upon themselves to ensure that the masjid got built. After evaluating the cost of locally building the masjid, they came up with a plan which at first sight would easily be dismissed as insanity. Build the masjid in Winnipeg and ship it 4,000 kilometres away to Inuvik in the Northwest Territories. As insane as that may sound, this was the most economical way of getting the masjid built. Part of the masjid's journey was going to be on roads (2400km) and part on water (1800 km).
The goal was to get the mosque on to the last barge heading towards Inuvik for the season. Not only was this going to be a logistical nightmare but it was to be a race against time as well. With receding water levels in the Mackenzie River, the shipping company decided to push up the departure date by 3 weeks.