Manitoba (Canada): The Hazelwood Mosque, which is the first in Manitoba, Canada, celebrated on Sunday its 40th anniversary by changing its name to the Pioneer Mosque.
On this occasion, President of the Manitoba Islamic Association (MIA) Idris El-Bakri said: “The new name is a nod to the handful of Muslim families living in Winnipeg at the time that fundraised and built the mosque in what was then a new subdivision in St. Vital at 247 Hazelwood Ave.”
"We owe these pioneers a great debt of gratitude," El-Bakri added.
"When I see this mosque I think anything is possible." El-Bakri and others officially unveiled the sign over the mosque's front door, a brass plaque commemorating the anniversary, and the sign showing the honorary renaming of the street in front of the building, Winnipeg Free Press reported.
The honorary street name is Pioneer Mosque Way. During the 1960s, the Muslim population of Winnipeg, numbering only 10 families, met in homes, churches and other locations to pray before deciding they needed their own place.
Abdul Malik, a former association president and one of the mosque's founders, said the land was purchased because it was priced reasonably and the few Muslim families here at the time lived nearby.
Malik said they spent a few years fundraising and began to believe building a mosque was out of reach until they received two large donations.
"One was from the Council of Muslim Communities in Canada and the other from King Faisal of Saudi Arabia. But then, with the building still under construction, the project was put into jeopardy when the contractor went bankrupt", he said.
"We had given him all our money what could we do?" Malik said. "Thankfully, we had people. They built the rest by hand. This is how we built this hall."
"Without Saudi help and our devotion this mosque would not be here." Ahmad Ashraf, the first president of the association, said when he came to Canada in the early 1960s there was only a handful of Muslims in Winnipeg.
Now Ashraf said there are now seven mosques in Winnipeg, 11,000 Muslims in Manitoba and more than one million across the country.
"I anticipated that we would grow," he said. "Now there are other mosques here and there is one in Thompson."
Coun. Brian Mayes (St. Vital) said he has always felt a warm welcome when he goes to the mosque. "This is not just an Islamic celebration this is a Canadian celebration," Mayes said.