Monday, March 22, 2021
Hundreds of people seated around tables inside a big white marquee
Hundreds assembled in Narrabundah on Sunday for a ceremony to lay the foundation stone of Canberra’s Ahmadiyya Muslim mosque. Image supplied.
March 22, 2021
More than 400 people assembled on Sunday 21 March for a ceremony to lay the foundation stone of Canberra’s Ahmadiyya Muslim mosque in Narrabundah.
In a specially erected white marquee, religious leaders recited passages from the Quran; Ahmadi children in Australian flags sang the anthem; and dignitaries and community members placed the bricks. The event was attended by Ahmadis from around Australia, members of other faiths, and local politicians. It was a miserable, wet day, but that marquee glowed with good feeling.
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Imam Kauser, national president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Australia, attended the ceremony to lay the foundation stone of Canberra’s Ahmadiyya Muslim mosque in Narrabundah on Sunday 21 March.
Holding such an event would be impossible in many countries, said Imam I.H. Kauser, national president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Australia. The reform sect is oppressed in many Muslim countries – including Pakistan, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia – and even the UK, because adherents believe its founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, is a later (but subordinate) prophet than Muhammad. Only last week, extremist mullahs, helped by police, tore down an Ahmadi mosque in Pakistan.
“We have been persecuted in our countries, but here in this country we have freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to vote as we want,” Imam Kauser said. “Australia has shown love and harmony for minorities.”
In his address, Imam Kauser emphasised those two virtues. “Mosques foster the spirit of love and mutual harmony … A mosque is a centre of peace and harmony for all mankind.”
The mosque was not only for Muslims, but for all who worshipped God, whether they be Jews, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, or from other religions. “The house of God is for everyone.”
It was a fort to protect their faith; a place of prayer, where Ahmadis struggled for spiritual uplift; where they prostrated themselves humbly and sincerely before God; and a place to establish good morals.
It has taken 22 years to build the mosque, co-ordinator Ahmad Munir said. The first Ahmadis arrived in the ACT in the early 1990s; they considered several blocks of land, including closed schools and churches, but none were found suitable.
The community tried to buy a block of land in Rivett, near the shops and church, but shop-owners lodged a complaint with the Land Development Authority. They were offered a block of land in Hume, but the LDA determined it was not suitable.
Instead, the LDA proposed the current location in Narupai Street, near the Spanish Club and the Narrabundah Ball Park. This was an ideal site: big enough for the Ahmadis’ needs, and close to the centre of town.
“The mosque is a simple contemporary structure, but with traditional Islamic elements like the dome and minaret,” Mr Munir said. It includes separate prayer areas for men and women, accommodating 300 worshippers; a library; a conference room; and Imam Ahmed Nadeem’s residence. It is expected to be completed within 12 to 15 months.
The mosque will cost $4 million. All money is donated by local members; traditionally, funds to construct a mosque must come from the community. Canberra’s Ahmadi community is small, only about 150 people, and few are wealthy, but many have pledged $100 or $150,000, often at tremendous financial sacrifice.
“The mosque is built with our blood, with our money, with our savings,” Imam Kauser said.
Ahmadis have pledged $1.3 million – $1 million from Canberra, $300,000 from across Australia. Pledges have raised $800,000, treasurer Mohammad Hasan said: $675,000 raised by local members and $125,000 by interstate members. One young man sold his car; women have donated their gold wedding jewellery; and some have given their personal savings. Thousands more was raised at Sunday’s event.
“I have experienced firsthand the emotions attached to the sacrifices made by our members,” Mr Hasan said.
“I have seen tears in people’s eyes. I have seen the hardships faced by our members – families adopting a simpler life so they can save as much money for the mosque – and I have seen kids donate their pocket money. … It truly amazes me as to how these members and their families are determined to pledge such substantial amounts in the way of building Allah’s house.”
Mr Hasan himself pledged $100,000 a decade ago, when his pharmacy was thriving; but the business’s value fell sharply a couple of years later. “My wife and I were happy to work hard and build a business, but during this time, fulfilling our pledge for the mosque would be impossible. We felt the only way we could fulfill our pledge would be to sell our family home and use the proceeds to pay the promised amount.”
Mr Hasan and his family firmly believe that the financial sacrifice was worth it. His children told him: “We sacrificed in the name of Allah, and we are confident he would bless us with a newer house.”
ACT Green and Canberra Liberal MLAs attended the event. ACT Attorney-General, Shane Rattenbury, said he was pleased the ACT Government was able to find a block of land for direct sale to the community and the development of the mosque. He said he particularly appreciated the Ahmadis’ message of peace.
“We live in a world where too many people are quick to highlight difference, lack tolerance, and are not willing to listen to others. … We are all humans, and we have much more in common than we have differences.”
MLAs Giulia Jones, Elizabeth Kikkert and Peter Cain represented the Canberra Liberals. Mrs Jones has worked with the Ahmadis since 2013 to help them find a site for their mosque.
“I know because of my own religious faith how important it is to have an appropriate house of worship and a house for God,” she said.