Letter to the Editor of the Winnipeg Free Press re: Memories of the first Mosque to open its doors in Manitoba

Author: Dr. Ferrukh Faruqui

Source: Winnipeg Free Press

I was delighted to read about the 40th anniversary of the first mosque in the province to open its doors. As a former Winnipegger, I have fond memories of fundraising for and growing up in the mosque.

My father, Mr. Irshad Ahmad Faruqui, designed the mosque for the Manitoba Islamic Association. Sadly, he is now over 83 years old and ailing, and therefore unable to share in the joy of this significant anniversary. He was a longtime trustee of the association and devoted much of his life and energy to its service.

Iā€™m a member of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women and just returned from its annual gala in Toronto, where I met Dr. Tammy Gaber, professor of architecture at Laurentian University, who has undertaken a study of mosques across Canada. She has done extensive research into the spaces allocated to women in mosques since the days of the first mosque, the Masjid al Nabi in Medina. Tellingly, over the centuries these sacred spaces, which initially had no barriers either physical or metaphysical between the genders, became less and less inclusive.

Our mosque had no barriers and no restrictions on women or girls during those early halcyon days. When I asked my father a few years ago in preparation for an essay on the state of Canadian Islam, he told me during the design stage, no one stipulated the incorporation of separate entrances, barriers or closed-off spaces for women, and he was as surprised and saddened as many of us were to arrive at our beloved mosque to find a barrier one day.

That bygone era, with its warmth, welcome and respect for women and girls as well as men and boys is now a historical footnote in the narrative of Canadian Islam.

Dr. Ferrukh Faruqui

Manotick, ON