A Mosque On Permafrost

Overlooking Inuvik with the fall colors in the...
Inuvik, in the fall...Image via Wikipedia

Here’s a seriously cool story — a mosque built in Winnipeg and sailed north to its permanent home in Inuvik, making it the world’s most northerly.

I once visited a town in northern Quebec, Salluit, which was built on permafrost. It’s a whole other world north of the tree line!

From The Globe and Mail:

Over 23 days and 4,000 kilometres, the mosque avoided several such calamities as it meandered toward the Arctic, capturing records and the national imagination along the way.

That’s what made its final arrival on Thursday evening all the more sweet for the 40-odd Muslims who greeted it, as crews hauled the 1,500-square-foot structure off a barge to a site where it will start welcoming worshippers by the end of October.

“We didn’t clue into the symbolic meaning of this mosque at first,” said Abdalla Mohamed, a local businessman who helped co-ordinate the move of what’s now considered the world’s most northerly mosque. “When the community realized that it was history in the making, it became a huge point of pride. I mean, this is the world’s only mosque on permafrost!”

A Mosque And Islamic Center Near Ground Zero? Fuhggedaboudit!

The World Trade Center after the 9/11 attacks
Image via Wikipedia

This makes me crazy.

A mosque and Muslim center planned for a building mere blocks from Ground Zero is a really bad idea.

As one man said tonight on NBC Nightly News, “It’s a finger in the eye.”

Reports The New York Times:

After a protracted battle that set off a national debate over freedom of religion, a Muslim center and mosque to be built two blocks from ground zero surmounted a final hurdle on Tuesday.

The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission voted 9 to 0 against granting historic protection to the building at 45-47 Park Place in Lower Manhattan, where the $100 million center would be built.

That decision clears the way for the construction of Park51, a tower of as many as 15 stories that will house a mosque, a 500-seat auditorium, and a pool. Its leaders say it will be modeled on the Y.M.C.A. and Jewish Community Center in Manhattan.

I am deeply committed to diversity and freedom of worship and thought.

Yes, build it. Yes, make it a place that will welcome people of all faiths who — finally — might get the chance to meet Muslims face to face, get to know them, get to make friends, get to understand them. Clearly, not all Muslims are terrorists, no more than all Christians or Jews fall to the outer margins of what the majority consider acceptable behavior.

Just not there.

I did not lose family or friends on 9/11. I did spend a terrifying day wondering, as thousands of New Yorkers did, if my partner was alive or dead, as he was due to have been on the subway directly beneath the Towers when they were hit. He got home a few hours early, having left his friends’ house much sooner than he’d originally planned.

Everyone who was here, and many who had friends, loved ones, relatives or colleagues working here, remembers that day as if it were yesterday. No one who smelled the sour, vicious, disgusting smell of the towers as they burned for weeks afterward will ever forget it.

It is utter madness and folly to mess with this trauma.

Build it elsewhere.

Or wait for a retaliation — like every single area unionized ironworker, electrician, plumber, carpenter, HVAC expert and mason to refuse their labor — and say aloud what many of us feel.

You want me working where?


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When Women Are Abused For Cultural Reasons, Should The State Step In?

Mannequin doll head with a black hijab headsca...
Image via Wikipedia

Interesting op-ed this week in the Vancouver Sun:

Back in June, in an “honour-killing” murder trial now known across Canada, Muhammad Parvez and Waqas Parvez pleaded guilty to the 2007 murder of 16-year-old Aqsa Parvez (their daughter/sister respectively). According to media reports, not one of the 12 people present in the house could — or would — bear witness to the crime.

Regrettably, unless attitudes in some immigrant communities change, this may not be the last time Canadians hear of such tragedies. The same day the Parvez men pleaded guilty to murdering Aqsa for “dishonouring” their family, I happened to conduct a workshop in an elementary school for South Asian women in Toronto. I asked the participants why the boys and girls were segregated on the playground and learned that about 75 per cent of the children in this school are from one region of South Asia, the same one Aqsa Parvez came from.

While segregation of children by gender is not the school policy, the volunteer parents who monitor the playground and speak their language instruct the children in appropriate, culturally accepted behaviours. For example, a majority of the boys and girls wore native outfits and few spoke English, and the consensus among the 19 mothers in the workshop was that if Aqsa had obeyed her parents, she would still be alive today.

All these mothers were resistant to the notion their children should adopt western values — the problem for Aqsa Parvez.

Reported the CBC:

Aqsa Parvez wanted to get a part-time job and be allowed to dress and act like other teenage girls in her neighbourhood, but those desires led to a deadly conflict with her family that ended with her being strangled.

The Parvez family had moved from Pakistan to Ontario. Aqsa was 11 years old when she arrived — the youngest of eight children.

The statement of facts released in court about the December 2007 death revealed that when she entered her teen years Aqsa began rebelling against her father’s strict rules.

“[S]he was experiencing conflict at home over cultural differences between living in Canada and back [in Pakistan],” the statement said.

Aqsa was in almost constant disagreement with her father and her siblings.

She told her father she did not wish to wear the hijab any longer. She wanted to dress in Western clothes and have the same freedoms as the other girls in her high school.

The statement revealed that Aqsa “did not have a door on her bedroom, her freedom to talk on the phone with friends was restricted, she was required to come straight home from school and expected to spend her evenings and weekends at home as well.”

It’s the third rail of politics for any country that has relied heavily on immigration from countries or regions whose cultural norms toward women (or children) vary widely from those of the nation to which they choose to move, live in, work and pay taxes to. I grew up in Canada and saw it there. I see it less in the U.S.

In Holland and France, the growing divide between what these democracies view as basic human rights and those of their newer residents, often Muslim, is creating growing friction.

The putative appeal of Western democracies such as those of Canada and Europe is their willingness to embrace and accept difference and diversity. But there are limits, and setting them an almost impossible challenge — before a woman is killed.