BEARSPAW, Calgary – Canadian Muslims in Calgary have expressed their disappointment for having their request to build a mosque in the Bearspaw area rejected by local officials.
“The municipal district of Rocky View basically gave us a long list of things we needed to do. We needed to look at a traffic study, water management, environmental impact.”
“Over the years we’ve been working with Rocky View to make sure that there aren’t issues,” Abdul Rahman, chair of the Islamic Association of NW Calgary told The Star.
In 2013, the two Muslim organizations bought land in Bearspaw with plans to build a mosque to serve the rural community, which is formed of 300 Canadian Muslims.
Abdul Rahman noted that they surveyed neighbors within a one-kilometer radius two years ago of the proposed site, at the request of the council.
“We received about 20 letters of concern and 14 approvals,” he admitted.
“We responded to locals’ concerns relating to traffic, noise, and environmental impacts. They were confident the paperwork was in order and concerns from the community were addressed,” the Muslim chair informed.
However, on April 4, 2018, six days before their hearing, the association was informed on a short notice that the council had decided to expand the survey radius to two kilometers; something which brought 25 more objection letters.
Fozia Alvi is one of those Muslims who live in Bearspaw for more than 15 years. She struggles like her community to find a place to practice their Islamic rituals.
Her commute to the nearest mosque takes as long as 45 minutes. Between her job as a family doctor and parenting three young children, she almost never has the time to travel to Akram Jomma Masjid.
“There is a mosque in the northwest Ranchlands area, but that is always full. With my busy practice, I have little time between my patients to pray. That mosque is a very small space, built for the people in that area. So, I have to go to northeast Calgary’s mosque,” Alvi explained.
She said that the council has approved a Buddhist temple and churches in the community, so she doesn’t understand why a mosque was rejected.
In an interview with the spokesperson of Rocky View County Council, he said: “Everyone is notified of planning applications through Public Notice newspaper advertising and website postings. The council voted in October 2017 to change the size of public consultation areas around new development proposals, and that the new rule came into effect on January 1, 2018.”
But Rahman believes that “We had no time to go back to these neighbors to respond to their concerns because the hearing was on April 10. So, we requested to postpone the hearing for 90 days so we could go back to these neighbors. Council refused to hear our request.”
The two Muslim groups hope they can get a chance to present their proposal again to fulfill the needs of the expanding Canadian Muslim community.