Visiting the Burnaby Mosque

It’s was 15 minutes before 8:00pm and the mosque was empty except for our small group and the imam. The evening prayer was to start on the hour, but Imam Yahya Momla told us that there wouldn’t be many attending on a Tuesday; the hundreds of people using the Masjid Al-Salaam Mosque in Burnaby mostly choose to do the prayers at home on weeknights, except for Fridays. However the doors opened and two men entered. One wore the darken glasses of the visually impaired and was led to the prayer room by his friend.

“Are you doing the call to prayer tonight?” the imam asked the friend. “Yes? Good. Go ahead.”

After leading the blind man forward, the friend then stepped up to the mic and started the adhan, calling the faithful to worship. Traditionally this was done outside from the minaret – the slender tower that graces most mosques. Not so much in Canada though. A bit cold for that, explained the imam, and maybe not in the best interest of neighbours. He has only been up to the top of his minaret once, and won’t do so again until the light at the top needs changing. (Editor’s Note: To listen to a sample recording of what the adhan sounds like – go here).

The lyrical phrases of the call swirled around the room and streamed toward the rafters high above us, fashioned with polished BC timber to reflect the mosque’s west coast location. The singer’s voice was beautiful, confident. And as he continued the call, other men entered the room and prepared for prayer.

Our group were visitors, invited to tour the mosque and observe the evening prayer by the imam as a gesture of gratitude and dialogue after the small vigil we had held after the Quebec City tragedy only nine days before. We had come together spontaneously that Sunday night, reaching out to each other on social media as the news of the mosque shooting unfolded.

 

Trudi had started the idea, tweeting her dismay and her need to just go stand in front of the mosque on Canada Way in some kind of solidarity. Others joined in and soon our small group stood together, holding a “Stronger Together” sign leftover from the New West United rally against bigotry and racism, held just a few days before. That rally at city hall was in response to neo-Nazi anti-Islam posters that had started to show up in our city. Imam Yahya, a New West resident, had spoken eloquently at the rally.

We weren’t really sure what we were trying to achieve, standing together outside the mosque that night, other than expressing our shame and sadness, as well as showing solidarity as fellow Canadians. As the news of the shooting spread, more people in cars honked, nodded, and gave thumbs-up to our group. Some parked and came over to thank us. And then Imam Yahya arrived. Ironically the night of the shooting had been same night BC Muslims were celebrating the 50th anniversary of their association. News 1130 radio had phoned him at the event for a comment about the group of supporters at his mosque, and he came to join us.

And now here we were for a follow-up visit and tour. We had started in the mosque’s library which also served as the imam’s office. He showed us the large, ornate copies of the Quran with flowing Arabic script, as well as books on Islamic culture and practice. He answered our many questions, including the tough ones such as the place of LGBTQ individuals in the religious community. All are welcomed, he explained, showing us the posted constitution of the BC Muslim Association which forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation.

We were shown around the rest of the facility. Built only 16 years ago, the mosque is well designed to be functional and beautiful, and this includes heated floors which are a blessing on a wintery February night when you are required to remove your shoes before entering certain areas. The mosque is not segregated by gender in all areas except the prayer halls. Imam Yahya said that since Muslim worship involves a lot of physical movement including bowing forward on the carpeted floor, most are more comfortable with separate prayer areas. At the Burnaby mosque, the women pray from a large balcony.

There are now about a dozen men in the hall for the evening prayer. Although hundreds could fit into the space, all the men stand in a tight row at the front, shoulder-to-shoulder. This is meant to create a spirit of oneness during the prayer. We watch as the imam sings verses from the Quran, the worshipers standing together, bowing together, connected in the space and with their god.

And it suddenly hits me; nine days ago in Quebec City this was likely the exact moment the shooter strode into the mosque there, during the evening prayer, the men standing shoulder-to-shoulder together in prayer while evil opened fire from behind. This moment of peace and beauty shattered by gunfire.

Witnesses say that some of the men died as they sprinted toward the gunman, trying to save the others. I could see how that would be true. The worshipers here are very connected to each other, just as we are connected to them through our shared grief and, hopefully, a shared desire to better understand each other as Canadians. Our small vigil and visit may be just a start.

 

The Masjid Al-Salaam Mosque in Burnaby collects food bank donations, specifically to support struggling refugee families. There will be a donation box for cash and non-perishable food products at the sold out Pecha Kucha event on February 25 at the Anvil Centre.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One district, two district, three district HOP: The Ultimate New West Shop Hop

The Downtown New Westminster BIA and Uptown New Westminster BA are teaming up with Sapperton Merchants for a unique shopping experience – The Ultimate New West Shop Hop. We’re coming together to encourage New Westminster residents to support their local merchants and discover some great shops in other neighbourhoods.

From February 10th to 19th, passport holders who collect one stamp from each district by redeeming the offer on the passport will be entered to win one of three phenomenal prize packs, each valued at well over $500. Shoppers who frequent more than three merchants will increase their chances to win with additional entries. And trust me…you want to win one of these prizes.

The passports can be picked up at any participating merchant, the Tourism New West kiosk at the Anvil Centre and the Royal City Centre admin office.

We’re really excited to be doing this initiative across the shopping districts, highlighting some of the best local independent businesses in New West and promoting each of them. Some of these businesses have been in New West for decades, and some are just starting out, but all of them are a key component to what makes this city so great.   And really, anything that we can do to encourage people to shop locally is good for everyone.

We’re also very aware that this past winter has been hard on many local businesses. These people are our neighbours. Our friends. Now is a great time check out a shop that you haven’t visited before, try a new class, or simply have a great cup of coffee with a friend.

The participating merchants are as follows…

UPTOWN
Pink Ribbon Bakery
Michelle Dupre Design & Company
Koyabell Fitness
Russian Spoon
Beach House Tanning & Swimwear
BLENZ The Canadian Coffee Company
Carlson Wagonlit Travel
Doctor Beauty
Cartwright Jewelers
The Gallery at Queen’s Park

DOWNTOWN
Bosley’s Pet Store
Mid-Century Modern Home
Polo Health + Longevity Centre
Old Crow Coffee Co.
Lofty Living Lifestyles
Hive City
Karma Teachers
Good Omen
Brick & Mortar Living
Mila + Paige
Zoom Hair Salon
Gathered Roots Acupuncture

SAPPERTON
MOVE – Yoga.Pilates.Dance Studio
Fireside Public House
Mindful Mutts
Barley’s Homebrewing Supplies
Fratelli Authentic Italian Bakery
Bloom Bloom Room
Kerry’s Boutique
Cadeaux Boutique & Day Spa

 

Secret Santa Community Edition # 10

Here’s the final instalment in our River Market Secret Santa series. (Numbers 1234, 56, 78, and 9. ) 

For many, the focus from everyday life turns towards the spirit of giving during the holiday season. This year River Market invited ten citizens from New Westminster to shop for gifts on River Market’s dollar. Many would say these citizens are actively engaged in making this wonderful city better each day. These individuals were tasked to hand pick each item which they thought would make a great gift and their only parameter was that they had $50 to spend. Once they were done their shopping, they would wrap the gift and deliver it to an organization of their choice in New West.

Ruby Campbell lives here and works for the city. “My first job was in New Westminster even though I was living in Vancouver at the time. I used to work at the mini donut place here when it was Fraser River Market,” recollected Ruby.

Ruby shopped for the Fraserside Emergency Shelter. “As a parent the worst thing I can imagine is being in crisis and having to keep positive for my kids. I wanted to put together a little gift for each of the parents staying at the shelter right now. There are 3.”

  1. Soaps – Donald’s Market
  2. Scratch and Wins – Paddlewheeler Liquor Store
  3. Lip protection – Jolene’s Natural Soapworks & Donald’s Market
  4. Solid Perfumes – Donald’s Market
  5. Bees wax candles – Donald’s Market
  6. Hand Lotion – Jolene’s Natural Soapworks
  7. Pepperoni – Donald’s Market
  8. Spicy nuts and Corn nuts – Donald’s Market

Ruby said the one gift she’d wish for was more time in the day. “As a busy parent there never seem to be enough hours.” (Editor’s Note: I can so relate!)

Thank you so much to River Market for this initiative. Merry Christmas!

Secret Santa: Community Edition # 9

Here’s number nine in our River Market Secret Santa series. (Numbers 1234, 56, 7, and 8. ) 

For many, the focus from everyday life turns towards the spirit of giving during the holiday season. This year River Market invited ten citizens from New Westminster to shop for gifts on River Market’s dollar. Many would say these citizens are actively engaged in making this wonderful city better each day. These individuals were tasked to hand pick each item which they thought would make a great gift and their only parameter was that they had $50 to spend. Once they were done their shopping, they would wrap the gift and deliver it to an organization of their choice in New West.

River Market tasked Brad Cavanagh with this instalment’s shopping.  Brad is a resident, serve on the city’s ACTBIPED Committee and volunteer with Spare Parts Adventure. He decided to shop  for the staff at the Lookout Society. “They do a lot of hard work to help homeless people and with the recent cold weather I wanted to really recognize all the hard work they do,” said Brad.

 

 

Brad bought:

2 mugs – Pottery Works

2 kinds of tea – Donald’s Market

Cold Relief hand cream – Jolene’s Natural Soapworks

2 kinds of shortbread cookies – Pamola Bakery

Toffees – Canteen & Supply

Like a lot of the Secret Santa shoppers, Brad didn’t want anything for himself. “I would really like it if you took a look over the wish lists for the Lookout Society’s three shelters in New Westminster and bought something for someone who’s truly in need this season!”

 

Secret Santa Community Edition # 8

Here’s number eight in our River Market Secret Santa series. (Numbers 1234, 5, 6, and 7. ) 

For many, the focus from everyday life turns towards the spirit of giving during the holiday season. This year River Market invited citizens from New Westminster to shop for gifts on River Market’s dollar. Many would say these citizens are actively engaged in making this wonderful city better each day. These individuals were tasked to hand pick each item which they thought would make a great gift and their only parameter was that they had $50 to spend. Once they were done their shopping, they would wrap the gift and deliver it to an organization of their choice in New West.

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In this edition # 8 of the Secret Santa series, River Market asked Neal Michael to get his shop on. Neal lives here and has organized many events that bring community together such as Popluck, Pecha Kucha, Stop and Stare, etc. Neal chose to shop for the Spirit of the Children Society. “I feel like as an organization it’s overlooked and under recognized. I like that a lot of the programs are ones that strengthen family connections. As a teacher I am passionate about youth and they do a lot for the youth of Indigenous communities.”

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They specifically asked for a gift card from Donald’s Market to go towards their Traditional Kitchen for Aboriginal Families and Youth and they always need fresh fruit and veggies and do some of their shopping at Donald’, so Neal picked up a selection of gift cards.

neal-michaelAnd if Neal is on your list of people to buy a Secret Santa gift for, check out Canteen and Supply. “We are foodies who love to cook and they have so many good things,” he says.

Secret Santa Community Edition: # 7

Here’s number seven in our River Market Secret Santa series. (Numbers 1234, 5, and 6. ) 

For many, the focus from everyday life turns towards the spirit of giving during the holiday season. This year River Market invited ten citizens from New Westminster to shop for gifts on River Market’s dollar. Many would say these citizens are actively engaged in making this wonderful city better each day. These individuals were tasked to hand pick each item which they thought would make a great gift and their only parameter was that they had $50 to spend. Once they were done their shopping, they would wrap the gift and deliver it to an organization of their choice in New West.

We profiled the Downtown BIA’s own Christmas promo the other day, but today, this installment of Secret Santa Community Edition features Angie Whitfield and Trestan Yuen. Angie’s been a resident since 2000 and works for the Downtown BIA and Trestan started working for the Downtown BIA as a Summer Ambassador and has stayed on as the Digital Marketing Co-ordinator.

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The Downtown BIA office has adopted a family this year through the Caring Neighbour Program. “We were given a family of refugees from Syria with 12 and 15 year girls. We’ll be adding today’s items to the larger Downtown BIA gift,” explains Angie. “This is a good opportunity to switch our viewpoint from getting to giving. As a mom with children I can’t imagine having how hard it would be to have a Christmas when you wouldn’t be able to give your family a celebration.”

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  1. Seasonal Chocolate Bars – Donald’s Market
  2. Mints – Donald’s Market
  3. Hard Candies – Donald’s Market
  4. Scratch and Wins – Paddlewheeler Liquor Store
  5. Cold FX Immune System boosters – Donald’s Market
  6. Lip Balm & Sugar Scrub – Jolene’s Natural Soapworks
  7. Tre Galli Gift Cards

When asked what’s they’d wish for, Angie said “For people to see the value of giving – especially young kids. More pay it forward type of experiences,” and Trestan asked for River Market food vouchers. “The food here is so good!” (we agree!)