Politicians and faithful open Canada’s largest mosque
CALGARY – Canada’s largest mosque was officially dedicated Saturday by an estimated crowd of 5,000 people that included religious leaders, Canada’s two top politicians and throngs of faithful.
A steady stream of worshippers walked underneath the Baitun Nur mosque’s shining steel dome and minaret tower and flowed to large white tents to witness the unveiling. The mosque, which covers 4,300 square metres is the spiritual home of Calgary’s Ahmadiyya Muslim community, which numbers between 2,000 and 3,000.
The global spiritual leader of the Ahmadi Muslims, Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, arrived in Calgary last Wednesday to lead the first prayers in the new facility and was on hand Saturday for the building’s public celebration.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper told the crowd that the Ahmadiyya Muslim community knows the importance of tolerance and peace because it has been the target of persecution itself since its founding in the late 19th century.
“In this mosque, we see the love and benevolent faith of Islam,” Harper said. “Ahmadis embrace Canada and Canada has embraced you.”
Opposition Leader Stephane Dion said the success of the Ahmadi community in Canada, as captured by the sacrifices made to build the Calgary mosque, is at the essence of what makes the country great.
“Canada will show the world that Muslim communities can flourish in a secular state like ours,” Dion added.
He praised the Ahmadiyya community for teaching its followers that loyalty to their new homeland of Canada is an integral part of their faith.
The movement’s views about Jesus Christ, the Prophet Muhammad, and their own founder — Ghulam Ahmed — whom they regard as the Messiah, have placed them at odds with the rest of the Muslim world.
Ahmadiyyas and their mosques often come under terrorist attacks from mainstream Muslims. The latter apparently feel that they present the world with a more accurate picture of Islam.
Also noteworthy in the article is a quote from a Roman Catholic bishop who apparently believes that Muslims and Catholics worship the same God.
Roman Catholic Bishop Fred Henry said Calgary Muslims and Christians share a common spiritual journey in their worship of God.
“My Muslim brothers and sisters, we also have a common concern for promoting moral values and addressing ethical concerns in our city through our ongoing dialogue and our work together,” said Henry.
Just 3,000 people make up the Ahmadiyya Muslim community in the oil-industry hub of Calgary. But their leaders expect numbers to grow quickly, prompting the need for the 48,000 square foot (4,460 square meter) Baitun Nur mosque with its towering minaret and ornate calligraphy.
It also shows the increasingly multicultural makeup of a city often thought of as overwhelmingly white, conservative and Christian.
“We did not have intentions just to make the largest mosque. We started building it and we tried to meet our needs, needs for the future generations,” organizer Safeer Khan said on a tour of the sprawling facility, whose architecture contrasts sharply with nondescript industrial and retail buildings in the city’s northeast.
“We wanted to pull our young generation from the street to keep them busy here with constant activities and positive activities.”
On Wednesday, the London-based leader of the sect, Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, arrived to adoring, chanting local Ahmadis. He toured the prayer halls, gymnasium, classrooms, offices, television studio and kitchen facilities.
His sermon was to be broadcast to Muslims in nearly 190 countries on Friday using the satellite TV facilities.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier are among dignitaries scheduled to help inaugurate the mosque on Saturday.
The well-wishing is a far cry from the reaction in countries like Indonesia, where the government last month warned that followers of Ahmadiyya, whose slogan is “Love for All, Hatred for None,” could face jail time for tarnishing Islam.
The Ahmadiyya sect has about 50,000 members in Canada who also plan new mosques in Brampton, Ontario; Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; and Vancouver, British Columbia.
Khokhar said teachings include nonviolence, freedom of expression as well as a love for one’s host country and sense of duty to the local community.