Muslim community centre and mosque opens in northern Quebec
Centre Communautaire El Mouahidine de Chibougamau to serve growing community
A Quebecer with Cree and Algerian roots is the driving force behind what is thought to be the first Muslim community centre and mosque in the northern Quebec mining town of Chibougaumau.
"I wanted to open a community centre when I saw that other Muslims lived in Chibougamau when I moved here a year ago, a place where we can all gather and pray," said Hichem Djemai in Cree.
Djemai's mother is from the Cree community of Mistissini, located about an hour's drive from Chibougamau.
The Centre Communautaire El Mouahidine de Chibougamau opened for the first time on March 19. This is the first time they will be able to gather for the holy month of Ramadan, which began on April 13 and continues until May 12.
Djemai moved to the community, located about 700 kilometres north of Montreal, last year and says there is a growing Muslim community in the region — he says there are some 50 to 60 Muslims who now live, study or work in the surrounding region.
A place where we can all gather and pray.- Hichem Djemai, El Mouahidine de Chibougamau
Djemai grew up in Montreal where his Algerian father lives. He says he reconnected with his Islamic faith last year.
"The [Islamic] faith has helped me a lot. I was a rebellious young man while I was growing up. To pray again helped me, I became a better person, better human being and a better man," said Djemai.
He said the longer term vision for the centre is to create a space where the wider community can gather and where children can come after school to do homework.
Djemai also hopes it can be a place where non-Muslim's come to learn more about what it means to be Muslim.