Little Mosque in the City

The left dome is the mosque, the right dome is the newly constructed SAT nightclub. Photo Julia Jones

Everybody knows honesty is the way to a reader’s heart; so to be honest, when I noticed that the Society for Arts and Technology nightclub’s new dome renovations resembled—too closely for it to be a coincidence—the neighbouring Al-Ummah Mosque’s design, my first reaction was to ignite disapproval among Montrealers against the club’s revamped exterior.

I was bothered with the SAT’s design, as it undermines the doctrine of religious buildings in the area (including a Catholic church in the same vicinity), so I decided to speak with the mosque’s Sheikh, Saeez Fawaz, last Friday to hear what he had to say about the situation (Friday Mosque for Muslims is like Sunday Church for Christians).

I arrived at the mosque I had been to before, but for the first time I was nervous, knowing I would speak to a man in his position. Honestly, I’m definitely not one of the best practising Muslims out there.

As I sat down, the Sheikh began telling the crowded room of worshippers the history of the mosque. In 1995, the city urged the Muslim community to move its place of worship away from St. Laurent Boulevard. The leader of the Mosque requested help from his followers to find a new spot to continue praising their creator.

Arif, a regular follower, managed to save the people $550,000 on space costs and successfully establish Al-Ummah Mosque on 2070 Clark St. in Downtown Montreal. That spot is now the downtown believers’ new Mecca.

Once we were done, I could tell from the Sheikh’s eyes that he was a bit confused as to why I was approaching him. I didn’t blame him. Not only does a purple polo shirt, red jacket, lime green G-shock watch and a curly head of hair prove to be a terrible combination, but it’s not respectable attire for prayer, either.

I introduced myself to the Sheikh, told him my objectives and I asked him his opinion about the SAT’s renovations. He said that he did not care for comparing the structural design of each building and that he was proud of the SAT for being able to raise finances to get closer to their goals.

When I asked about the nightlife situation, Sheikh Fawaz said he felt indifferent because the partying never takes place during prayer time. The partying starts after the last prayer and ends before the first one. Also, the Dome’s new astrological concept has proven to be a positive revamp, as it will help aid the research and development of open-source software, broadband-network IP and digital production tools related to telepresence, immersive environments, video and sound.

For the past two years, the city centre has gone through heavy construction. One area in particular that is experiencing the biggest upgrade is the Place des Arts area along with the “dirty” areas around it. Parts of Ste. Catherine Street are planned to be exclusive for pedestrians, and many businesses that poorly reflect the city’s culture have been flattened while others have been raised.

Unfortunately, Al-Ummah Mosque may be neglected in the construction process. There is a serious need for community members to become involved in their surroundings, like Arif himself.

It was an enlightening quest preparing for this squabble. It’s not everyday that I get to talk to followers from a church, strip club, mosque and the Sheikhs that lead them. Where else will you see a church, a mosque and a science and technology centre that doubles as a club by night? Where else will you have a prayer, a drinker, a bum, a stripper and a scientist all living in perfect harmony?

I was wrong for thinking twice that Montreal may have let me down. After this, I have never been more in love with the city.

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 16, published November 30, 2010.