Monday, September 27, 2010

The Little Yellow Mosque That Could--Arab Muslims in Inuvik, NWT, Canada Now Have a Place of Worship and Community

There is jubilation for a small community of Sunni Muslims (immigrants from the Sudan, Egypt, and Lebanon) above the Arctic Circle, in Inuvik, Northwest Territories, as their mosque arrived (September 23) by river barge, and truck trailer from Winnipeg, Manitoba (4000km away). The mosque is a tribute to the growing population of Muslims in Inuvik, now at 80 men, women, and children, but also to the generosity of a Muslim charity that provided funds for the mosque as the congregation is too small to raise sufficient funds on its own. The mosque also is a tribute to interfaith community spirit, as much of Inuvik turned out for the arrival of the mosque and to help with it.

Inuvik, on the northwest corner of the Northwest Territories (blue grey), near the border with the Yukon (steel grey); the mosque was built in Winnipeg, the capital of Manitoba (light green), then transported by truck and barge 4000km

The AFP article copied below, is just one, but it summarizes well. The Globe and Mail article, Little Mosque on the Permafrost, captures some of the perils of the journey, despite its inaccuracy about it being the most northerly mosque (see end of this post). The CBC article, Arctic mosque lands safely in Inuvik, has an excellent slide show of community members greeting the arrival of the mosque. An earlier CBC article, shows the challenges of land transportation as the mosque is pictured teetering over a bridge.
Little yellow mosque arrives in Canadian Arctic

OTTAWA — A small mosque has arrived in the Arctic to serve a growing Muslim population in Canada's far north after travelling 4,000 kilometers (2,485 miles) over land and water, the project leader said Thursday.

"The entire Muslim community of Inuvik went to the dock to greet the mosque -- men, women and children, about 80 people -- when it arrived Wednesday afternoon," Hussain Guisti told AFP by telephone.

"It was the first time there were no taxi drivers in all of Inuvik," he quipped. The few cabs in town are apparently all driven my Muslim men.

The number of Muslims in Inuvik, a town of 4,000 inhabitants in Canada's Northwest Territories, has grown steadily in recent years to about 80 and they no longer fit in an old three-by-seven-meter (10-by-23-feet) caravan used until now for prayers.

The congregation could not afford to build a new mosque in the town, where prices for labor and materials are substantially higher than in southern parts of Canada, local project coordinator Ahmad Alkhalaf said last month.

But they found a supplier of prefabricated buildings in Manitoba that said it could ship a structure to Inuvik for half the price of building a mosque from scratch on site.

A local Muslim charity -- the Zubaidah Tallab Foundation of Thompson, Manitoba -- also offered to pick up the costs for the 140 square meter (1,500-square-foot) facility, Alkhalaf said.

And so, at the end of August the tiny yellow mosque's voyage began on the back of truck, winding through the vast prairies and woods of Western Canada toward Hay River on the shores of Great Slave Lake, Northwest Territories.

There it was transferred onto a barge and floated down the McKenzie River to Inuvik, about 200 kilometers (124 miles) north of the Arctic Circle.

It must still be unloaded and moved to a parcel of land purchased by the congregation in a residential part of the town, and topped with a minaret before it is ready on November 5 to welcome worshippers -- largely Sunni Muslim immigrants from Sudan, Lebanon and Egypt who moved to Canada's far north in search of jobs and economic opportunities.

The facility will also double as a Muslim community center.


~200 km (120 mi) north of the Arctic Circle
~56 days of continuous sunlight every summer; ~30 days of polar night every winter
~7 months of the year frozen in; air access only
economy based on petroleum industry and nearby Canadian Armed Forces base

Population: 3,484 (2006)
Peoples: Inuvialuit (predominately Uummarmiut), 38.9%; First Nations, 18.4%; Métis, 4.7%; other Aboriginal, 1.2%; non-native, 36.7% [80 Arab Muslims]
Languages: Inuvialuktun, Gwich’in, English

The Interfaith Neighbours

Our Lady of Victory Church, "Igloo Church", Inuvik

Igloo Church, in summer, at midnight, Inuvik, 
from Guest Article – Driving Canada’s Dempster Highway by Bruce Pollock

Inuvik Society

Inuksuk ("inuk" person "suk" substitute), stone marker or cairn, Inuvik

Inuvik Regional Hospital

Inuvik Community Greenhouse, in a former hockey rink

Midnight Sun Recreation Complex, including Family Centre, Pool, Fitness Centre, Ice Rink

The Great Northern Arts Festival

More Northerly Mosques: Tromsø, Norway; Norilsk, Russia

Alnor Senter (formerly Masjid Noor) in Tromsø, Norway, the world's most northern functioning mosque. 
Image from GEC is by Tychee

Al Masjid al Rahma, also in Tromsø, Norway (Muslim population 700-800), the world's 2nd most northern mosque.
 Image from GEC is by Tychee

The Nurd Kamal mosque in Norilsk, Russia [50,000 Muslims, mainly from Azerbaijan, and Dagestan]. Denis Sinyakov / Reuters

The Nurd Kamal mosque, residential buildings and smelters in the arctic city of Norilsk
 last month [April, 2007]. Denis Sinyakov / Reuters

What do you imagine life is like for the Arab immigrants to Inuvik?
What part of being a new immigrant there would be culture shock, and what part climate shock?
Have you been to the Arctic? What time of year? What was your experience like?
Have you lived as a Muslim in a place with no mosque? How did you or the community adapt?
What name would you suggest for this as yet unnamed mosque?
Any other comments, thoughts, impressions, experiences?

 A minaret will be attached before the Inuvik mosque opens November 5, 2010


Susanne said...

Wow, I can't imagine going from MENA to live that far north! I know Samer has enough trouble living in Germany as it is much colder and overcast than Syria. Even their professors told them those from the warmer/sunny climates (mostly international students in his Master's program) might experience depression while studying in Germany.

I love what a colorful place Inuvik is. And those are neat pictures of the mosques in the most northern areas.

Interesting info - thanks!

Majed said...

I think all those non-natives and not just muslims who are living in Inuvik only, are survivors,the new pioneers but also very clever people who are struggling for better life and taking the advantage of a place where there is less competition on opportunities and resources due to the harsh weather conditions,seclusion,limited access to services and restrictedness of choices and poor transportation, I think they are kind of people who believe that one has to compromise few comforts of life in return for other benefits.
Arab are well-adapted to warm and hot weather and can imagine that it might be like hell for them to live there for very long time untill they get used it. But culturally they must not feel so different because they are not the only one who is different as Inuvik consist of people from many different groups, and as their number is on the increase I gues the people of Inuvik are very kind,hospitable and embracing and among such people one should feel at home, but I wonder how muslims will cope with and solve the problem of ( 56 days of continuous sunlight every summer; ~30 days of polar ) in reading prayer times and fasting and fast breaking times, I dont know if there is any fatwa concerning such situations, may be there because there are muslims who have experienced such situations in may be Finland or Norway or Sweden.
As I said the people of Inuvik seem to be very kind and hospitable so it is only right that the mosque name should in some way reflect the gratitude of muslim toward those people like calling it ( Inuvik grace mosque, Inuvik hospitality moque or just Inuvik mosque)

Wendy said...

Lovely blog post, Chiara!

jaraad said...

Nice post!
I live in Missouri. In the winter I feel like I live in Siberia. I can't imagine myself living in Inuvik. Who would guess that there are Arabs there. Allah be with them I can feel how difficult it is to wake up for Fajer or make Wudu'.

Alhamdulilah, I never lived in a city were there was no mosque.

The picture from Norilsk, Russia makes me appreciate the summer even more.


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