Islam in Canada: Alberta saw the quiet steps of Islam

Americas Tamalika Basu
Islam in Canada
Vintage mosque in fort edmonton park (built in around 1920), edmonton, alberta, canada. © Fallsview |

There were only 13 of them! Four years after the foundation of Canada, in the year 1871, Census discovered that they have 13 European Muslims as citizens. So what was the root of Islam in Canada? For Islamic scholars and Ulemas, the northern regions of Canada have been a final boundary for spreading the religion of Islam. For nearly 1400 years, the message of Islam was carried by Muslims all over the world. Except for the Canadian northern regions, as it was too remote.

But this has changed by the 1940s, according to history, the journey of Islam started in a small northern town in the Canadian province of Alberta.

The initiation of Islam in Canada

The first Canadian mosque was built in Edmonton in the year 1938. At that time there were approximately 750 European Muslims in the country. Edmonton is the capital city of the Canadian province of Alberta. Then the spread of the peaceful message of Islam began in Canada. The first town it conquered is Lac La Biche.

At present, Lac La Biche is still a sleepy quiet town where at most 2300 people live. It is situated about 140 km northeast of Edmonton. It was quieter when three Lebanese immigrant families first set their feet in the 1940s. They started living here by 1946. They were actually the follower of an Islamic entrepreneur from Lebanon. His name was Ali Ahmed Abouchadi.

He arrived in Lac La Biche in the year 1906 and became an important figure in the fur trade with the local Canadians. Probably, he was the first Muslim to learn and speak the Cree language. In the year 1911, Mohamed Abuali Gotmi arrived from Lebanon. He was an employee of Ali Ahmed at first. After a few years, he started his own fur trading business.

That was the initiation. Ali Ahmad and Mohamed Ali started to generate employments for their countrymen. Thus, more Lebanese families arrived in the 1950s. By the year 1969, the Islamic community of Alberta had grown into 40 Lebanese families, 37 of them were Muslim.

These early Muslims created an important minority in Lac La Biche. They intermarried with Canadians. Some of the Canadians started to convert at that time.

The years after World War II saw a slight increase in the Muslim population. Then the European Immigration preferences were removed in the late 1960s. This spawned the massive Islamic immigration in Canada.

The spread of the message of Islam in Canada

In 1957, an Arabian Muslim Association was formed with 12 members. They planned for a Mosque in Lac La Biche. And the following year Al-Kareem Mosque was founded. It was the second Mosque in Canada. It served as a place of worship along with the Qur’an school.

Then the mosque needed an Imam. So in the year 1962, a qualified Lebanese Alim came to the town on a three-year contract to serve as one. He was very active within the Islamic community.

One observer stated that “Here on the edge of the great boreal forests of the Canadian northwest one can hear each weekend the chanting of Quran and Arabic dictation.”

By the year 1969, the Islamic community of Lac La Biche became 10% of the city’s population. This was the largest part of the Islamic population in North America at that time.

The present condition of the Islamic community

The Muslims of the Canadian province of Alberta are actually not so connected with the Islamic world. But they practice the religion with a pure heart in their own ways. These days, nearly one of every five residents of Lac La Biche is of Lebanese Muslim origin. The Al-Kareem mosque was modified and reconstructed in the year 1986. It is considered an important part of the Islamic community of the town.