INUVIK, Northwest Territories – The northernmost mosque in North America officially opened Wednesday, marking an end to an arduous journey that saw the building shipped 4,500 kilometers (2,800 miles) over narrow, bumpy roads and atop a river barge.
The mosque is believed to be the second most-northerly in the world, next to one in Siberia.
Inuvik, a town of 3,300 people north of the Arctic Circle, has some 80 Muslim residents who until recently have met for prayers and religious education inside a small trailer. Hussain Guisti, a member of a Winnipeg-based Muslim charity called The Zubaidah Tallab Foundation, decided last year he would help design and build a mosque for the northern community.
The group originally wanted the mosque to be built in Inuvik but soon realized having a prefabricated building constructed in Winnipeg would be much less expensive, even with the lengthy shipment factored in.
Inuvik Mayor Denny Rodgers said there is no sign of the type of animosity encountered by new mosques in some parts of the United States.
"We're very much a multicultural town up here," he said. "Canada itself is a melting pot, and Inuvik, when you look at all the different cultures that are represented here, is just like that."
There were only a handful of Muslims in the town 20 years ago, according to Guisti. Like many northern communities, Inuvik has a near-constant supply of job opportunities that has attracted people from all backgrounds.
"Muslims who are here tell their friends and relatives 'come on over, there are jobs here'," he said.