The Islamic Society of New Brunswick has made a down payment on a church in Maugerville, about a 10-minute drive from downtown Fredericton. Built in 1899, the building on Peters Road will serve as a new mosque and community centre.
Syed Soharwardy, founder and chairperson of the society, said there's a growing Muslim community in New Brunswick.
"That's why we need more mosques. Because as people of faith, we definitely need our places of worship," said Soharwardy. "We do have mosques already, but they are not enough for the growing population."
There are other mosques within the city of Fredericton, but they are not associated with the Islamic Society of New Brunswick. The Fredericton Islamic Association has a mosque on Lincoln Road, but there were concerns about the traffic in the area. At the end of 2021, the association received zoning and variance approval from Fredericton's planning advisory committee for a new mosque on Alison Boulevard.
Vision for the future
The Islamic Society of New Brunswick's mosque will hopefully be ready for worship and interfaith dialogue in mid-November, Soharwardy said. He said they made a down payment on the property, which was listed for $250,000.
The Islamic Society of New Brunswick was created in 2019 and opened a mosque in Saint John in 2020. The society's second purchase was in Moncton for a community centre and mosque.
The society has a broad vision for the future, said Soharwardy. The Saint John property is around 3.5 acres, the Moncton one is around 1.7 and the newest Fredericton addition is around 1.4 acres. The plan is to make institutions that will last for the next 100 to 200 years to serve the growing Muslim population, he said.
While the new Fredericton-area location will be a place for worship, Soharwardy said it will also be a place for personal events like weddings and birthdays, as well as hosting a food bank.
"It will be … one place where they can come and do everything whether it is related to religion, or their social or family activities," he said.
Perfect location, well-maintained
Soharwardy said the historic church is a perfect location, since it is in a residential area but also close to downtown. He said the size of land is reasonable and the church was well-maintained and in good condition.
Every mosque has its own planning committee, said Soharwardy, so while the Islamic Society of New Brunswick is a provincial organization, this new Fredericton-area mosque will be managed and maintained by local community residents.
Soharwardy said he's been reaching out to New Brunswick community members of different faiths and traditions including those who don't follow a religion to welcome them to the space. He wants to discuss how to make New Brunswick a better place for everyone.
"It is our property; it is your property," said Soharwardy. "And you're most welcome to come."
He said they focus a lot on interfaith relationships. "We live in a multi-faith, multicultural, multi-ethnic society," he said. "And that's the beauty of this country."