The Kamloops Islamic Association is looking to relocate the Ayesha Mosque in Knutsford to within city limits and says it has struggled for years to find a suitable location in the community.
Meanwhile, city council will provide a letter of support to the association as it continues to find a location. On Tuesday (Feb. 23), the association appeared before city council to discuss its current location challenges, which include inaccessibility of the mosque to members and university students. In addition, the association said sewer and water access is a challenge in the rural area.
Council heard the association is constantly on a boil-water advisory by Interior Health and hauls its water. Association secretary Muqsit Faruqi said that in addition to those challenges, the Islamic community has grown and it’s time to move.
“Our community understands that back in 2007 [when the Knutsford property was purchased], we just needed to establish a mosque and we had to be mindful of financial sources and resources, since we were only 34 families at the time; therefore, we ended up in Knutsford,” Faruqi said.
“However, the current demand, as well as potential for expansion of our services to the community at large, has substantially changed since 2007.”
Council heard that prior to the association being formed nearly two decades ago, area Muslims rented halls and prayed in their homes. No location in Kamloops was found for a mosque, leading to the purchase of the Knutsford property in 2007. Relocation discussions have since popped up in recent years. Faruqi said the Muslim community has strong support for relocation. During the presentation to council, the association touted benefits that include better collaboration with non-profits and community groups, attraction of Muslim students, attraction and retention of professionals and community inclusivity.
Council heard that with an influx of international students from the Middle East in recent years and the addition of the law school at TRU, the association has received inquiries from both international and domestic students about availability of a mosque in the area and factor that into their decision whether to attend Thompson Rivers or another school.
“We try to offer the services as best we can, but accessibility has been the great challenge,” association president Faisal Siddiqui said.
The association is looking for a place not only within city limits, but one that is also accessible to a transit route, has 70 parking spots and is in close proximity to the university, preferably in the Sahali or Southgate neighbourhoods.
Faruqi said the association discussed with TRU the possibly of a mosque on campus. However, since the land is government-owned, those discussions were not successful. The association has also spoken to the city about potential locations, though nothing has yet to come to fruition.
“This is a very important matter for our community,” Faruqi said. “However, we are struggling to find a potential location within the city for the past 17 or so years.”
Anyone with a lead on a potential location can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coun. Arjun Singh put forward a motion to provide the association with a high-level letter of support in principle for the mosque to relocate to Kamloops. He said he wants it to be understood that “this is something we desire in the community.” His motion was supported unanimously by council.