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.

Read the rest of this entry »

“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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Faisal Kutty, friend of 30 Masjids, spoke on CBC Radio One’s Sunday Edition with host Michael Enright…

Read the rest of this entry »

Read the rest of this entry »

Read the rest of this entry »

Both complementary events are happening this evening in Vancouver. I may join sunset prayers at Al-Masjid Al-Jamia about 5:30 p.m. then rush to the steps of the Art Gallery of Vancouver for their event start at 6 p.m.

I understand the Olympic Torch in Jack Poole Square will be lit tonight to symbolize support and solidarity for everything that’s happened these past six days.

InshAllah, God-Alone Willing, you may make it out tonight.

Fifth Estate host Mark Kelley stops by CBC News Network to talk about their documentary Under Attack which tells the story of the Quebec City mosque shooting that has shocked a nation.

Under Attack: The Quebec Mosque Shooting – The Fifth Estate – CBC News

On January 29, 2017, a young man in Quebec enters a mosque and fires his rifle into the crowd – killing six worshipers.

On the same weekend, tens of thousands gather across North America to protest what they see as President Trump’s discriminatory bans on Muslim immigrants and refugees.

Do these events point to a more fearful future?

Do they suggest more dangerous and precarious times ahead for Muslims in North America?

The fifth estate searches for answers in Canada and the US.

Mark Kelley is in Quebec City, to tell the story on the mosque shooting that has shocked a nation.

My video from today’s Friday Sermon, Jumah Khutbah, in downtown Vancouver:

I asked the regular Friday Khatib of VMCC, Vancouver Muslim Community Centre, permission to record today’s Khutbah. He said okay.

I anticipated today’s Khutbah would include Québec, he confirmed it would….

He provided a Big Picture, Civilizational Perspective, on Sunday Night’s events in Sainte-Foy/Québec City, and reflected upon Canada’s reaction and Canadians’ response.

His words were exactly the medicine I needed to feel better today; to heal better today.

Perhaps watching it, you may feel better too.


Read the rest of this entry »

Read the rest of this entry »

Supporters will create a “human shield” outside Masjid-al-Noor, mosque in St. John’s, on Friday to show solidarity with the Muslim community.

CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

Masjid Al-Noor is the ONLY Islamic Centre in Canada’s eastern most Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

It was where 30 Masjids in 30 Days Across Canada began Ramadan in 2016.

Friday is Jumah. The day for Muslim Congregational Prayer at midday.

In Masjids, Musallahs, and Islamic Centres across Canada, the weekly sermon will be delivered. Fellow Canadians have self-organized symbolic Human Shields of Solidarity around places for Friday Sermons from East to West.

With the time difference, The Human Shield around Masjid Al-Noor is where this second day of funerals for victims of the Quebec City Mosque Shooting begins…

Read the rest of this entry »

Cérémonie hommage aux victimes de l’attentat de Québec à l’aréna Maurice-Richard de Montréal (2 février 2017)

Discours de Justin Trudeau, Philippe Couillard, Régis Labeaume, Denis Coderre et des membres de la communauté musulmanes du Québec

Midi info, Radio-Canada Première
(Photo: P. Chiasson, La presse canadienne)

Funeral Janaza for three of the six Muslims who were killed Sunday night while praying Isha, The Night Prayer, inside The Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec was held in Montreal today.

This video collection includes all news reports found on youtube so far.

When Video Audio of the entire Janaza becomes available, I’ll add it added to the top of this blog post, InshAllah/God-Alone Willing Alhumdulillah/Thank God-Alone.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read the rest of this entry »

CBC’s Jonathan Montpetit responded to questions at the masjid in Québec City where leaders of the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre escorted media inside.

Read the rest of this entry »

A candlelight vigil was held Monday night in front of Vancouver’s original Masjid, Al-Masjid Al-Jamia.

Gregor Robertson Mayor of Vancouver, Four City Councillors, Two Rabbis, One Reverend, Board members of Al-Masjid Al-Jamia all spoke.

I also stepped up and shared a few words about my 30 Masjids visit this past Ramadan to the Islamic Centre of Québec. But I did not record myself, so that’s missing from the video.

Standing for a moment before I spoke, looking out into the night, I saw a sea of people. The sea had spilled out onto West 8th Avenue itself. So many Vancouverites had turned out.

I honestly expected maybe two dozen people at most who might come out. As you can see in the almost 52 minute video, many dozens more actually did.

We were all Canadians. We were all affected by the events in Sainte Foy, Québec.

For whatever comes next, we know we Canadians are all in this together.

Read the rest of this entry »