Another Ramadan. Another Musalah without an official name. This time in Downtown Vancouver.

Last year, during our New Brunswick Leg of 30 Masjids Canada, during Day 10 and Night 11 of Ramadan 2016, I prayed in a new Musalah in Saint John. It was created for then newly arrived Syrian Refugees in easing the experience of their first Ramadan in Canada.

The then new Masjid was at 370 Somerset Street in Saint John was so new, it didn’t yet have an official name.

On the very last day of Ramadan 2016, I prayed Dhuhr, the mid-day prayer, in Downtown Vancouver on the ground floor in a small cozy prayer space accessed via the alley behind 888 Granville Street, a few metres north off Smithe Street.

During Ramadan however, Iftar, Maghrib, Isha and Taraweeh are found upstairs…

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Tonight takes us into South Vancouver and the Fraserview neighbourhood.

And south of here used to be an important village of The Musqueam People, the original First Nation whose Unceded Territory this part of the city occupies.

Fraser Street is rich with multi-cultural shops and restaurants. On either side of Fraser are ethnically-mixed residential blocks, lots of them. These are the low-density Single Family Homes that make up so much of the news nowadays due to the housing crisis.

In that mix, is a basement prayer space that can easily be missed, even as you walk by and are looking for it.

Fraserview Muslim Community Services is located at 6436 Fraser Street.

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Masjid-Ul Haqq is a neighbourhood masjid located at 4162 Welwyn Street, a few steps north of Kingsway, inbetween Knight Street and Victoria Drive.

This masjid also serves as the Vancouver Branch of The British Columbia Muslim Association.

4162 Welwyn Street was originally a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

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Assalamu Alaykum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuh,

MSA UBC is excited to announce weekly iftaars on campus every Monday and Thursday. The iftaar for the 29th of May and 1st of June will be held in the lower level of the nest (Agora) at 9pm.

We hope to see you there!

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Masjid Omar Al-Farook is located at 1659 East 10th Avenue.

Their large sign is easy to spot from a few steps east at Commercial Drive.

A little less easy to spot is this small kind note, taped to that sign:

To You
Your Jewish Neighbour

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The first full day of fasting of Ramadan 2017 finds me deciding to break fast at MAC Islamic Centre.

MAC is located at 2122 Kingsway in East Vancouver.

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I met Brother Spencer in the second floor foyer of the MAC Islamic Center in Vancouver shortly before Sunset.

Why was he putting shoes on and getting ready to leave with Iftar time so close?

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Ajyal Islamic Centre is in Downtown Vancouver.

Ajyal is walking distance from my place in the Downtown Eastside and has become my “home” Masjid.

It’s a Musallah, a leased prayer space in the International Village Complex at 181 Keefer Place, Unit 202.

For this first night of Ramadan, before the First Day of Fasting begins, it was perhaps inevitable that I would begin my Taraweeh Prayers with the Congregation I spend the most time with.

That, and the fact I ran out of time returning to downtown from Burnaby Mountain after going there for Ramadan Moonsighting… with Ajyal’s Moonsighting Group, so they were “my ride” too!

Ajyal will provide Free Iftars for everyone to break their fast followed by Iftar Dinner everyday.

Around 11 p.m., a very short overview of some of the Verses of The Qur’an which will be read during the Taraweeh will be shared.

Isha will begin at 11:20 p.m and Taraweeh starts right at 11:30 p.m.

They pray 8 Rakats (units) of Prayer for Taraweeh. It’s Tag-Team Taraweeh as you may hear from the videos below.

They won’t be reading the entire Qur’an over the entire month due to time constraints. Instead, Ajyal Taraweeh Leaders will start reciting each of the 30th Parts of the Qur’an (the Juz) and see how far they can get to. The rest of the part, people are encouraged to complete reading on their own at home.

Each Sunday Morning, there will also be a short Islamic Education session before Sahoor, the pre-dawn meal, which will be provided.

During the Last 10 Nights of Ramadan, Ajyal will also provide pre-dawn Sahoor in addition to the earlier Iftar Dinners. So, you could stay overnight from Sunset til Sunrise and you’re good to go.

Ajyal is steps away from the Chinatown-Skytrain Station. Muslims from all over Metro Vancouver do pray here.

Because the Skytrain stops running about 12:30 a.m., Ajyal will conclude Witr Prayer by 12:15 a.m., leaving enough of a margin to make the train if need be.

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On Friday Evening, May 26 2017, I joined with Ajyal Islamic Centre‘s Moonsighting Group, Brothers Zachariah, Ali, Omar, to search for the new Ramadan Moon.

The four of us travelled to Burnaby Mountain Park, highest unobstructed point in Metro Vancouver.

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In appreciation of the support the Muslim Community received over the tragic Quebec shooting.

Thank you for standing in solidarity with us, and for the kind and very compassionate emails and messages received. …

… Let us get to know each other over a cup of tea. Look forward to seeing all at the Open House.

Conveniently located steps away from Stadium Station.

FREE 2-hour underground PARKING at International Village Mall. Parking entrance east of Abbott Street between Keefer and Pender St.

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Guest Blog Post by Craig Carter-Edwards (@OpenCCE) :

I wrote this for WelcomeHomeTO’s blog last year — seems as good a time as any to repost.

This is the same Masjid where today a group of Islamaphobes tried to disrupt the peaceful prayer of its congregants.

My Canadian values are better represented by the respectful diversity and empathy within, not the hate that assembled without.

June 28, 2016

Yesterday I attended prayer services at Masjid/Mosque in downtown Toronto. I was there at the invitation of a friend of mine, a newcomer who came to Canada from the Middle East as a refugee.

The inspiration for this visit was a chat about Ramadan and the concept of a global community of Muslims fasting together. I realized that, while I had visited mosques while travelling in Europe and North Africa and seen clips of prayer on TV, I had never experienced a full prayer session in person.

“Why not come with me tonight?” my friend offered, and I accepted. She texted me the address and told me to be there for 10 p.m.

As it is custom for men and women to pray separately, I would only see her after the service was done, but she insisted I would be welcomed by everyone on the men’s floor.

I arrived early at the address, and was surprised to realize it was a building I had passed by countless times before without knowing it was a mosque. Through the door was a foyer with a shelf for shoes — it was still early, so the shelves were mostly empty. On the shelves were well-polished dress shoes, some sneakers, some sandals. I took off my hiking boots and put them on a shelf close to the entrance, then walked in.

All the mosques I had visited previously were ancient, opulent structures with polished floors, grand arches and intricate ornamentation; the Masjid Toronto was much lower key, with cream-coloured walls, a red-and-orange carpet and no chairs or pews. Some bookshelves held copies of the Koran; at the back of the room was an alcove with a bar to hang coats and set down bags.

While my friend had told me I needn’t introduce myself to anyone — just walk in and sit down — I felt an urge to at least offer some explanation for my presence.

“Asalam alaikum” I said to the first person I saw. “I was invited to attend prayer by a friend — is there a place I should sit or not sit?”

The man I asked suggested I sit somewhere at the back, as the room would crowd up, but otherwise wherever I felt comfortable. Nothing in his tone made me feel in the slightest like I was imposing, which might have been the comfort I truly needed. I found a spot next to the alcove for coats and bags and sat cross-legged on the floor.

As the time to start prayer drew closer, more and more people trickled into the room, all moving right to the front and lining up beside their fellows. I was admittedly surprised by both the diversity in the room and the comfort everyone had with each other. The entire Muslim world was represented in the mosque — South Asian, East Asian, Arab and non-Arab from around the Middle East, African from both sides of the Sahara. There were a handful of men of European descent, including one man there with his four sons. Additionally, there were four men in wheelchairs for whom everyone made room. By the muted conversations I heard, it was apparent there were a mix of Canadian-born and newcomers present.

Everyone, friends and strangers alike, stood shoulder-to-shoulder, in some cases so close that toes touched. Despite the economic, ethnic, linguistic and age diversity, there was no apparent divides in the mosque — all were equal. Some were checking their phones, others taking sips of water, others still reviewing copies of the Koran. One man put a subway sandwich between his feet, a dinner for later; next to a pillar waited a quintessentially Canadian Tim Horton’s cup.

The service started without ceremony; the imam began speaking, and everyone came to attention. Sitting at the back, observing the service, I couldn’t help but note the parallels to services from the Protestant church of my youth, or countless Catholic services I had experienced through weddings and funerals. Indeed, apart from the lack of pews and music to note transitions, the fundamentals of the Muslim prayer service hit the same notes of a Christian service — communal action and recitation, readings of scripture, a homily.

The imam gave notice of a recently deceased congregation member and asked for everyone to pray on their behalf. In his sermon, he discussed specific Ramadan customs and exceptions, emphasizing that it was okay and even better in the eyes of Allah to miss a prayer service to support a friend in need than to abandon the friend for the service itself. To me, this was a manifestation of the Golden Rule — essentially, God is found wherever people are supporting each other.

Like all religious services, this one was long for the children in the room — I watched as they fidgeted and their attention wavered, adjusting and readjusting their feet until their fathers poked at them to be still and stay focused. These little, universally human gestures and the overall service structure really brought home how familiar this experience was, and would be to anyone who has been through a prayer of any kind, anywhere.

It occurred to me that there might be something in this — a religious exchange of some kind where congregations could either have guest-speakers from other religions or “field trips”.

Experiencing first hand how much in common the people and customs of different faiths are would no doubt break down some walls of misunderstanding.

The service ended as it began; a few words were spoken by the imam, and then people got up to leave. I filed out with everyone else, without any undue attention. The men queued up to get their shoes, stepping back into the lives and professions and statuses they held beyond the mosque.

On the street, the women who prayed upstairs and the men from downstairs mingled again. My friend found me, and I began to pepper her with questions about all the content I hadn’t understood. She joked that the imam was Egyptian, and that even some of the Arabic speakers in the room wouldn’t have caught everything he said.

Across the street, I caught a few people casting sideways glances towards the crowd spilling out of the mosque, with many women in hijabs, some men in religious clothing and the conversation largely in languages other than English. There was just a hint of tension in those glances, with passersby perhaps wondering what this crowd had just been up to.

They’re welcome to step inside and find out — they might feel better for having done so.

We hear much about mosques as places of radicalization — but rarely as spaces of community and commonality, which is a shame. Mosques, like churches, temples are centres of community; what happens in any such space mirrors what happens in others far more closely than it differs.

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“We are all SFU” was held in the Teck Gallery at Harbour Centre inside Simon Fraser University Vancouver Campus on Thursday Morning, February 9 2017.

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PARLIAMENT HILL, OTTAWA – February 8 2017: The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) and other community leaders called on Canadian governments to take concrete measures against Islamophobia, racism, and discrimination, following the deadly attack at a Quebec City masjid.

Speakers included Mohamed Yangui, president of the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec, where the shootings occurred.

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