The Islamic Association of Saskatchewan’s prayers have been answered: city council has granted the group approval to build a new mosque in Regina.
At Monday night’s council meeting, city council voted unanimously in favour of bending the bylaw to allow the religious institution to be built in Tuxedo Park, which is zoned for light industrial and commercial uses.
Those present from the Muslim community were gleaming.
“This is a great moment in the history of our community over here. This is a day we’ve been looking forward to … for at least 10 years,” said president Faisal Khan, adding that it’s been a bumpy journey for the group.
In 2012, the association started reaching out the Rural Municipality of Sherwood to build a new mosque on Anaquod Road, formerly Tower Road, in the city’s southeast end. After getting denied a permit, the group tried again earlier this year but were shut down due to the apparent potential traffic issues.
After Khan and former president Munir Haque made their presentation to council, asking to take over the building in central Regina, support overflowed.
“I doubt that there will be any vote that I cast as a councillor that I’m more proud of than the one I will cast supporting your request tonight,” said Ward 2 Counc. Bob Hawkins.
“I find it very unfortunate that the R.M. of Sherwood was not willing to accommodate — this is not the first time I’ve heard parking and traffic used to keep Islamic spaces and prayer centres out of communities,” added Ward 3 Counc. Andrew Stevens. “Welcome back to Regina.”
Those sentiments were reiterated by Mayor Michael Fougere.
“This is about accommodation and about what we should be doing,” said Fougere. “I’m finally glad they found a place because it’s not easy to do that … we’re pleased they’re here in the city.”
Khan said the reaction from council was heartwarming.
“Members of my community standing here are as grateful as can be to the members of the council,” he said. “We are really feeling welcome here in this city.”
According to Khan, the current mosque located in the Lakeview neighbourhood is at overcapacity, packing in more than 200 worshippers on weekends.
Mayor Fougere said he’s been there before and understands first-hand the need for an additional space.
“The mosque they have now is a house and it’s just incredibly jammed — they have to walk through different rooms and they can’t worship the way they want to,” said Fougere.
The new building at 525 12th Avenue East, located north of Victoria Avenue and west of Park Street, will provide the Muslim community an extra temporary space to worship. Khan said they plan to hold services there starting in May, just in time for Ramadan.
In two to three years, he added they plan to tear the structure down and rebuild a new mosque and community centre.