Lac La Biche has the highest percentage of Lebanese people per capita in Canada (14%) and the Lebanese have greatly contributed towards the growth of Lac La Biche into the community it is today. Most Lebanese in our community are Islamic, but they did not have a mosque, or masjid (مسجد), for several decades after their arrival in the area.
The arrival of the Lebanese in Lac La Biche is said to have been started by Alexander Hamilton, also known as Ali Ahmed Abouchadi, in 1906, before briefly leaving to attempt homesteading in Saskatchewan and returning in 1912. By the late 1940s, there were about ten Lebanese families living in the area. Without a mosque, these families would meet in their homes for prayers and other gatherings. In the 1950s, the Lac La Biche Muslim Association was established, originally called the “Arabic Moslim Association” according to one article in the Lac La Biche Herald.
In 1958, construction began on a multi-function center. This center would be a place to pray, gather together, and educate their children. The building was completed in the fall. This building was only the second mosque in Canada and the third in North America. The first mosque in Canada was built in Edmonton in 1938, twenty years earlier. In 1960, an Imam arrived to serve the community.
In 1966, the Lac La Biche School Division wished to build a high school behind the Islamic Center and needed the site that the center was on. An agreement was reached and the center was moved to a different location. After the move, additions were made. The top floor of the building was thereafter used as a mosque, and the basement was used for schooling and social gatherings.
The Al Kareem Mosque as we know it was constructed in 1986. The current Muslim community in Lac La Biche is well known for its hospitality and vibrancy.
*Note: This post was published on Eid al-Fitr 2016. Eid Mubarak (عيد مبارك)!