Canada: Cape Breton a home to celebrate for Muslims

Six years ago the congregation purchased a former church hall on Grand Lake Road in Sydney and renovated it, adding a minaret (a feature of Islamic architecture from which the call to prayer is sent out) and trim reflecting Middle East styles.

 

There were 50 good reasons to celebrate peace and harmony in the tiny Cape Breton Muslim community recently.

That is exactly the number of years the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at have called the island home. The celebration centred on the fact the humanitarian sect of eight families has been made to feel welcome in their adopted Cape Breton community.

As Umram Bhatti, the imam (worship leader) of the group, told The Chronicle Herald: “I would say with 100 per cent certainty that the families are very safe and secure in Cape Breton.”

The motto of the group is: “love for all, hatred for none.”

While there have been a few localized incidents and some backlash from some local residents, the small group has been well-integrated into the community.

It was Dr. Momin Khalifa, now 87, who established the congregation when he arrived in Cape Breton in 1966 to work as a family physician in Glace Bay. He is now retired, but occasionally helps at the hospital and walk-in clinic.

Dr. Khalifa said most of the families have a medical background and include doctors working at the regional hospital or the family clinic. A few other families have their own businesses, provide catering services and Pakistani and Indian food.

Six years ago the congregation purchased a former church hall on Grand Lake Road in Sydney and renovated it, adding a minaret (a feature of Islamic architecture from which the call to prayer is sent out) and trim reflecting Middle East styles.

There was a time when Mr. Bhatti, who mans an information table at the Sydney flea market, encountered a rare instance of prejudice against the group. The group distributes free literature at the market and tries to help anyone understand the religion of Islam peacefully and to remove misconceptions and myths about Muslims and Islam.

A young man came in with his wife, looked around, angrily accused the group of being terrorists and made threats before leaving. Mr. Bhatti regrets not being able to have a longer conversation with the man or being able to invite the man home for coffee or some food.

Police heard about the incident and reached out to Mr. Bhatti to let him know the community was there for him and that the group is safe here.

That call and the community welcome both show this is home to Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at and that, after 50 years, it is time to celebrate.

Happiness starts in the home and this small group of Muslims have found both in Cape Breton.

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