Canada’s biggest mosque opens in Calgary

By Asma Chaudhry

The inauguration ceremony of Baitun Nur, Canada’s largest mosque, attracted everyone from the head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community to leading Canadian politicians and streams of devotees July 5.

The new building in northeast Calgary includes a steel dome, a tall minaret tower, the 99 names of God inscribed on the outside and a chandelier that is only the second of its kind in the world. The 4,300 square metre mosque, praised by Prime Minister Stephen Harper as an “architectural treasure,” also houses two prayer halls, a multi-purpose hall, a gymnasium, a dining hall, a children’s centre and many offices.

“I don’t suppose I will be the first to observe that it isn’t exactly the little mosque on the prairie,” said Harper at the inauguration ceremony.

Harper and opposition leader Stephane Dion were among the many dignitaries present at the inauguration ceremony. Harper noted that the Ahmadiyya Muslim community is devoted to peace, social, health and educational initiatives and their faith. Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier reminded the audience of the rainy day in June 2005 when the foundation stone was placed and offered his congratulations to the Ahmadiyya Muslim community.

The mosque cost approximately $15 million to construct, roughly $8 million of which came from donations from local Calgarians and members of the Calgary Ahmadiyya Muslim community.

“Everyone knew about it,” commented U of C first-year economics student Aisha Zaman. “People who don’t even know who Ahmadis are knew that this new mosque was opening. We raised so much money ourselves, which shows how dedicated we are as a community and how united we stand.”

Ahmadiyya Muslim community Khalifa Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad was received by Bronconnier and provincial ministers at the Calgary airport July 2. He expressed his joy at the completion of the mosque in his Friday sermon telecasted across the globe through the 24-hour satellite channel Muslim Television Ahmadiyya. He said the mosque is open to those of all faiths.

“We can see in this mosque the true and benevolent face of Islam and those who worship in its name,” said Harper, praising Ahmad as a proponent of religious freedom. “We especially applaud the Khalifa for denouncing those who pervert faith by claiming it as a justification for violence.”

The Ahmadiyya Muslims face severe persecution around the world for their religious beliefs. In June, 23 medical students studying at Punjab Medical College in Faisalabad, Pakistan were expelled because they were members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. The community is criticized for believing that Muhammad was not the last Muslim prophet and is considered heretical in Pakistan.

“This community knows first-hand what it is to experience persecution and discrimination based on your religious beliefs,” said Harper. “You understand at a profound level that promoting religious freedom is an essential building block for peace and stability here and throughout the world.”

The community was established in the late 19th century in India by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, believed to be the promised messiah and reformer of the latter days. Ahmadiyya Women’s Association Calgary NW president Shazia Chaudhry, of no relation to the writer, described how the community operates under the leadership of the Khalifa.

“Our success is based on the teachings of Islam which are reinforced through our Khalifa to us,” said Chaudhry, describing how women play an important role in the community. “We take an active part in volunteer work both inside and outside of the community. We donate blood for the blood bank, we gather food for food banks and items for shelter homes. Whenever there is need for financial aid–be it for cyclones, hurricanes, earthquakes–the women of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community are the first to contribute.”

“Clearly the community is flourishing here in Canada,” described Harper. “Ahmadis have embraced Canada and Canada has embraced you.”

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