Growing Muslim community looks to build Yukon's first mosque

The Yukon Muslim Society has set a target of $490,000 to build a small mosque in the downtown area of Whitehorse. 'We need to have a bigger space, also instead of renting, we'd like to have our own place.'

Yukon Muslim Society sets fundraising target of $490,000 for small mosque in downtown Whitehorse

Rented office space in downtown Whitehorse is no longer big enough for the city's Muslim community. (Dave Croft/CBC)

Yukon's Muslim community has begun a fundraising drive to build what would be the territory's first mosque. The goal is to have it built and in use within two to three years.

When Muhammad Javed and his family came to Whitehorse 16 years ago after emigrating from Pakistan, they joined up with two other families, from Fiji.

Muhammad Javed says a small mosque with space for children and social events is needed. (Dave Croft/CBC)
"There were only three families here, including myself, and there was no place to pray," Javen said.

"We used to pray in the house for our annual, like Eids, Ramadan celebration. We used to do it in the house, those three families would get together."

Javed said as the Muslim community grew it began using the United Church for Friday prayers, but then the group outgrew that, too. Four years ago, it began renting offices downtown for a praying space.

'We cannot accomodate everybody'

Now, with about 40 Muslim families in Whitehorse, Javed said it's time to build a mosque.

"This place is getting tighter now for annual celebrations, we cannot accommodate everybody here. Also, for our gatherings, like social gatherings, this space is very little. So we need to have a bigger space, also instead of renting we'd like to have our own place," he said.

He said more space is also needed for the children to play and learn in, said Javed.

Yusuf Legere says an Islamic charity, the Zubaidah Tallab Foundation, will make a substantial contribution to the cost of the mosque. (Dave Croft/CBC)
Yusuf Legere is a relative newcomer to Whitehorse and hopes to make it a long term home.

"The Muslim community is small but tight-knit, close. The wider community is amazing — great people here, positive and welcoming," he said.

Legere believes a mosque would enable Muslims to have a larger presence in the wider community.

"If we want it to have any sort of extra organization to do work for the community, food banks, or any kind of outreach, we don't have the facilities for that," he said.

Manitoba-based charity helping out

The Yukon Muslim Society has set a fundraising target of $490,000 for the project.

Legere said the Zubaidah Tallab Foundation, a Manitoba-based Islamic charity which has helped found mosques in Inuvik and Iqaluit, is helping out.

"They have promised to fund two-thirds of the operation. So, we buy the land and they will fund two-thirds of the building," he said.

Javed said finding the land is a challenge because they'd like to build in the most expensive part of the city.

"We would prefer in downtown because most of the people work in downtown. So that's our struggle — to find a reasonable-priced piece of land here," he said.

Iqaluit's mosque opened in February, 2016. (Sima Sahar Zerehi/CBC)