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This article was published 10/3/2017 (1322 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
In almost exactly a year, the Masjid Bilal mosque went from being an empty City of Winnipeg building to a welcoming place of worship and community.
The Winnipeg Islamic Centre officially opened Masjid Bilal (33 Warnock St.) with a celebration on March 4, which saw hundreds of area residents in attendance. On a regular day, the 45,000 square foot space can accommodate over 400 guests for prayer.
The mosque’s imam, Sh. Muhiadin Sheikh Omar, said the support of the community helped immensely in donations as well as what they had to spend thanks to countless volunteer hours in getting the building renovated.
"We do fundraisers sometimes and mostly, it’s from the community," Omar said. "We saved a lot of money with volunteers… so far, we have spent $150,000 to renovate. It was a good building owned by the City of Winnipeg so we didn’t have to do that much, but we had to reshape it."
Omar says they relocated the bathrooms and created rooms on one side for classrooms and offices. The bathrooms themselves also saw the addition of areas for washing feet, as worshippers are required to be clean before prayer.
The main worship area now has lush carpeting, made comfortable for sitting and lying and is patterned to indicate which direction to pray in. There is a separate, more private room that women can access, where they are able to shut the door to the main room.
Omar said that historically, mosques have always been more than simply places to worship.
"It’s also to provide other services, school, education, provide food to the poor, same context as a church," he said.
He added that they also have a focus on newcomer programs.
"We have a huge influx of refugees so we want to participate in that," he said. "We want to provide English classes for newcomers, cultural training, employment training, so we’re trying to create some social services to help adapt."
As well, he hopes that people in the community who might be curious about Islamic culture will feel welcome to stop in and sit down with him or one of the other mosque leaders to learn more.
"Sometimes people from the neighbourhood come and say, ‘I want to understand more about Islam,’ or, ‘I heard a lot in the media,’ so we invite them here so we explain to them the fundamentals and understanding and perspective of Islamic tradition, and give them books," Omar said.
Omar said the location is a great addition to Winnipeg Islamic Centre mosques, as this one will service folks living in the downtown, McPhillips and Seven Oaks areas.
"We wanted it in the downtown because most of the community that uses this facility is in the downtown area, so we didn’t want to go too far," he said.
For more information, visit bilalcentre.org
Community journalist — The Metro
Alana Trachenko was the community journalist for The Metro
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