Eid on the ice: Hockey arena hosts growing Muslim community prayers
For big celebrations and events, the N.L. Muslim community has outgrown its mosque
While the steadily-growing Muslim community in the St. John's area awaits a new mosque, the Jack Byrne Arena in Torbay is filled with thousands of Muslims for the first of Eid prayers.
Muslims around the world are celebrating Eid, which marks the end of Ramadan, the holiest month on the Muslim calendar which sees followers fast from dawn to dusk.
The Eid morning prayer has begun at Jack Byrne Arena <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/nfldeid?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#nfldeid</a> <a href="https://t.co/zmAvEMEBx9">pic.twitter.com/zmAvEMEBx9</a>—@CBCMarkQuinn
"It's a big time where everyone gathers together to celebrate," says 13-year-old Abdallah Shahwan.
For Eid celebrations, he said, it's pretty common for kids to forgo school and parents their work.
"We like to celebrate it with our family," said Shahwan.
For this year's prayers, the Muslim Association of Newfoundland and Labrador was grateful to find the Torbay arena available to accommodate its more than 2,000 members in the metro St. John's area.
"This is I think one of the largest places available for us," says Syed Pirzada, president of the association.
"As we all know, the Muslim community is growing by leaps and bounds and we are having difficulty every year to find a place where we can accommodate our two Eid prayers."
The mosque on Logy Bay Road — the only mosque in the province — can only accommodate about 500 people and can't meet the growing needs of the community, like a funeral home.
"We are trying to manage. It's a challenge for all of us," said Pirzada.
Since the 1980s, the province's Muslim population has climbed from 100 to more than 3,000. In recent years, between Syrian refugees, students and the economy, there's been a huge influx, he said.
"The [Muslim] student population has quadrupled, if not more."
What a crowd at Jack Byrne Arena to celebrate Eid. Beautiful warm vibe here to celebrate the end of Ramadan fasting <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/cbcnl?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#cbcnl</a> <a href="https://t.co/FFOUq1dkoN">pic.twitter.com/FFOUq1dkoN</a>—@CBCMarkQuinn
Pirzada said the association had acquired land in St. John's for the construction of a new mosque, but encountered problems, and have since opted for a plot of land on Bauline Line in Torbay.
The town granted them a one-year permit, which means construction has to start by November 2018.
Pirzada said the first phase — getting certificates, architectural and structural designs and concrete work — will cost around $500,000. Overall, the new mosque is expected to cost around $1.2 million.
When you’re about to do a live report and a curious kid decides to start playing with your camera 😳 <a href="https://twitter.com/CBCMorningLive?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CBCMorningLive</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/NatashaFatah?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NatashaFatah</a> <a href="https://t.co/3fhN5pCZxt">pic.twitter.com/3fhN5pCZxt</a>—@PeterCBC
The challenge, Pirzada said, is that while the Muslim community has expanded enormously, its financial base has not.
A lot of the new members are students and new immigrants, plus refugees who are skilled but may have trouble finding work, and don't have the expendable cash to help raise the funds.
"Although I will tell you that Muslims have been contributing in every nook and cranny of Newfoundland, be it Labrador, be it remote places of Newfoundland and Labrador," Pirzada said.
"Every sector, any sector, you take it — you will find Muslims contributing very energetically and peacefully."
Pirzada said the association is appealing to federal and provincial governments, or anyone, for funding to help.
With files from Mark Quinn and Peter Cowan