Prayer Centre Brings Controversy

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Prayer Centre

author: ethan williams | contributor

Prayer Centre

Seems like a good place for a prayer centre/Ethan Williams

Prayer centre stirs up debate in Regina’s south end

One look around downtown Regina will tell you that this is a busy and bustling city with commuters, pedestrians, and businesspeople. Make your way to the outer neighbourhoods, and you’ll find that it is mostly tranquil and quiet. But one Regina neighbourhood is worried they’ll lose that tranquility following a decision by Regina City Council that approved the development of a new Islamic prayer center in a strip mall on Assiniboine Avenue in Varsity Park.

An article posted online by local media shows Stacey Ferguson, a concerned resident, upset that the center would create unnecessary noise and extra traffic, and disrupt the peace of the neighbourhood with as many as hundred other residents also opposed the development for the same reasons.

It’s not just residents who are concerned. The daughter of a storeowner in the mall where the center will be located, who didn’t want to be identified, told the Carillon that the center would cause traffic headaches in the store’s parking lot.

“I don’t agree with the city’s decision because there will be less space for my customers to park.”

When asked if the added traffic may increase sales at the store, the owner’s daughter was not convinced it would help.

“[The worshippers] come for prayer, not for buying things. Sometimes, they may not even have their wallets with them. They’re trying to improve their lives by going to prayer, not by buying cigarettes and lottery tickets.”

However, other residents in the area feel that the center would not be a nuisance. A resident, who also did not want to be identified, told us she would be in favour of the hall, but mentioned that some of her neighbours were against it.

“They didn’t really voice the reasons except that there’s going to be a lot of traffic.”

When asked if Islamophobia was the reason for opposition, the resident said she thought that might be one of the concerns of her neighbours.

“I think that people just don’t understand the religion. They’re uncomfortable with new things, and I think they’re making a link between violence and the religion. I worked with immigrants for years, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that they’re just like us.”

The neighbour also mentioned that a petition had gone around the neighbourhood recently to try and convince city hall to reverse their decision. When petitioners came to her door, her husband respectfully declined to sign it until they had more information.

“We spend a lot of time out of the country and this decision was made while we were gone.”

Mohamed Eldarieby, a spokesperson for the Islamic Association of Saskatchewan’s Regina chapter, doesn’t agree that the opposition comes from Islamophobia, saying that the people in the neighbourhood are very nice, but he thinks the concern is the increase of traffic and noise. However, he says that the association is doing everything it can to create a smooth transition for the people living in the community.

“I have lived in the neighbourhood since 2007 and know the concerns of the residents. We’ve collaborated with the city on how the center would affect safety,” he said, noting that the prayer times would not coincide with pick up and drop off times at nearby W.S. Hawrylak School.

“Prayers happen five times a day, but the time we would expect the most people is our prayers from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. There will only be twenty people maximum at a time, so this will help with traffic.”

While there may be debate between neighbours, the plans to develop the center will continue as normal, at least for now.

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