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'The need was huge': historic Al Rashid mosque reopens after renos

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi speaks at the reopening of the Al Rashid Mosque on Feb. 25, 2024. (Brandon Lynch/CTV News Edmonton) Mayor Amarjeet Sohi speaks at the reopening of the Al Rashid Mosque on Feb. 25, 2024. (Brandon Lynch/CTV News Edmonton)
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A historic Edmonton mosque celebrated its grand reopening Sunday.

The Al Rashid Mosque, believed to be the first in Canada, reopened Saturday after a year of renovations aimed at addressing the changing needs of a growing population.

The mosque opened in Edmonton in 1938. It was rebuilt in 1982 to meet the growing number of Muslims in the city, and the original brick building now resides in Fort Edmonton Park.

Noor Al-Henedy, a spokesperson for the mosque, said there were only around 20,000 Muslims in Edmonton when the mosque was re-built in the 1980s. By 2021, the national census showed that number had grown to 85,000.

"So the need was huge, and the building needed some renos to expand the space a little bit, make it more open, add the little items here and there, just really open it up for our community," Al-Henedy said.

Many programs take place in the basement of the mosque, including the set up of emergency shelter spaces during extreme cold.

Al-Henedy said that posed an accessibility issue for some visitors, so upgrades included adding wheelchair ramps and a lift.

The mosque also added new hearing aid audio technology to help visitors with hearing loss.

Al-Henedy said renovations cost around $5 million total, but not all of it was paid in cash.

"A lot of the labor was donated, a lot of the time of the people was donated, there was a lot of volunteer work that was put into this project that brought it down to closer to like $3 million in terms of actual cash donations," she said.

The past year has been a difficult time for the community to be without the mosque, Al-Henedy said, and they were glad to have the doors open again in time for the upcoming Ramadan.

"Our community is feeling a lot of emotion," she said. "Our hearts are very broken and we're kind of bleeding on the inside and not being able to come home, not being able to congregate in our prayer hall … We need to come together to heal, so this is extremely important."

The City of Edmonton said Saturday the mosque wouldn't open as an emergency shelter during the extreme weather response, due to a plumbing issue.

However Al-Henedy said Sunday the team is ready to accept clients for the duration of the activation.

"We will be opening our doors this evening to welcome anybody that comes in," she added. "This project is very dear to our community, because it's all about service of others, which is fundamental in our religion."

Shelter spaces at the mosque are available from 5 p.m. to 9 a.m. during the extreme weather response. A free winter shuttle will be running from downtown and Northgate Transit Centre to take people to the mosque starting at 11 p.m. 

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