Muslims living in Whitehorse now have a space that they can call their own.
Following years of organizing, fundraising and planning, the Yukon Muslim Society finally opened the doors to the territory’s first-ever mosque on Sept. 28, welcoming community members from all faiths to the small building on Second Avenue near Black Street.
For Yukon Muslim Society president Muhammad Javed, it was “an exciting day,” one that reflected the “very hard work” and many hours that volunteers have put in over the years to make the mosque a reality.
“It was a historic day for Muslims in Yukon, because it’s the first mosque in the Yukon,” Javed said in an interview Oct. 1. “…Every province and territory has a mosque now.”
About 150 people showed up to the opening he said, including Premier Sandy Silver and Commissioner of Yukon, Angélique Bernard.
Of all of Canada’s provinces and territories, the Yukon, until now, was the only remaining jurisdiction without a mosque. A mosque opened in Inuvik in 2010 after being brought to the Northwest Territories from Manitoba by river and road, while a mosque opened in Iqaluit in 2016.
The Yukon Muslim Society began fundraising to build a mosque in Whitehorse about two years ago. It also received $75,000 from the Yukon government last year, via community development funding, as well as a $150,000 pledge from Manitoba-based Islamic charity the Zubaidah Tallab Foundation.
Javed said the mosque was a necessary addition in Whitehorse, where about 40 Muslim families now live. When he first moved to the city in 2001, he recalled, there were only three Muslim families, with the population gradually increasing over the years.
In 2005, the community began praying at a room offered to them by the United Church, Javed said, before renting a small space near Strickland and Front Sts. in 2009. But, with around 100 people attending prayers in recent years, that space started getting a bit cramped, too.
“With the community growing, it was too small and there was not enough space, especially with the Friday congregation and annual celebrations — space was getting tight,” he said. “And we also wanted to have some space which is permanent and which is bigger in size, where we can (have) not only prayer, but also social gatherings.”
The Yukon Muslim Society would also like to start offering children’s religious education at the mosque too, Javed said, as a lack of a facility “for the kids to learn the cultural and religious aspects” had previously caused some Muslim families to leave Whitehorse.
For now, though, the mosque is primarily serving as a place for daily prayer (prayers are led by a community member as the society currently doesn’t have the capacity to bring in an imam), with members of the public welcome to visit the space by appointment. There are also a few finishing touches that the mosque still needs: it’s a functioning space with specially-ordered red-and-gold carpets covering the floor of the main room, separate entrances for men and women and a station for ablutions near the entrance, but details like having a nicer privacy curtain and installing appliances so food can be reheated for gatherings still need to be addressed.
The society is also continuing to fundraise to support the cost of the mosque and its ongoing operation, but overall, Javed said he’s pleased that what was only an idea a few years ago has now become reality.
“We’re very happy that it was a very successful project,” he said.
With files from Maura Forrest and Jamie-Lee McKenzie
Contact Jackie Hong at firstname.lastname@example.org