LONDON – Ontario Muslims will be celebrating this week the golden jubilee of the construction of their first mosque in London city and the second in Canada, rejoicing the place that has become a destination for Canadian Muslims decades ago.
“It’s a place where people come to relax, to identify, to establish new friendships, to outreach to the neighborhoods around the mosque and meet new friends,” Dr. Munir El-Kassem, told AM980 Radio station on Friday, August 15.
Dr El-Kassem was speaking about London Mosque, which was established in Ontario 50 years ago on Oxford Street.
It started after 12 Lebanese immigrant families settled in London and wanted a communal place of worship.
Buying a house in Oxford street, it was demolished to make place for their new mosque.
At its inauguration, the mosque was the only one in the whole Ontario and the second in Canada.
Soon after construction was completed in 1964, it began attracting Muslims from around the world.
The only other mosque operating in the country at that time was in Edmonton.
“The mosque is certainly a converging point for people,” said Dr. El-Kassem.
“When Muslims arrive in the city, it’s the first place they ask about. They go for worship, and more than that, they go to get assistance to settle and to socialize with people who have been in the city before them.”
Over the past fifty years, the small worshipping place expanded to add an Islamic school on the property in 1996, and a multimillion dollar renovation in 2010.
Now the London Muslim Mosque is one of three in the city that serves a Muslim population of around 30,000 people.
“We are seeing that the community continues to increase not by immigration only, but there are many people who are now second and third generation Muslims who are born and raised in Canada,” said Dr. El-Kassem.
“I am safe to say that now maybe 65% to 70% of the community was born and raised in London, Ontario.”
Making its 50th anniversary, several events were planned throughout the weekend, including a conference and community dinners.
Muslims make around 2.8 percent of Canada's 32.8 million population, and Islam is the number one non-Christian faith in the country.
A recent survey showed that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are proud to be Canadian, and that they are more educated than the general population.
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