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Making the Arctic a Muslim Home: Strategies of Place-Making in Northern Canada
How do Muslims make places in Arctic Canada? What do they need to feel home living so distant from the cradle of Islam? How to feel a sense of belonging in surroundings where Islamic ritual practices are – besides many other challenges – severely complicated by extreme changes in daylight? This paper provides tentative answers to these questions in taking up the case of mosque-building as a strategy of home-making for both Muslim communities and individuals. In recent years, three purpose-built mosques have been erected in Northern Canada – the Midnight Sun Mosque in Inuvik, Northwest Territories above the Arctic Circle, the mosque in Whitehorse, Yukon, and the mosque in Iqaluit, Nunavut. A fourth one in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, is in the process of being built. In light of the above questions, answers suggest that the building of these mosques has been driven by wishes for rootedness, visibility, and – most importantly – the desire to feel home. The mosque hereby fulfills different functions of home: It can provide a community home for gatherings, celebrations, and educational and leisure activities; a spiritual home and safe space for individuals; and a place of interaction with the local population. The members of these new mosque communities represent different ethnicities, generations, gender groups, and branches of Islam, thus raising questions of religious authority and the interpretation of Islamic traditions, i.e. regarding prayer times, qibla orientation or mosque governance. The paper looks at strategies of home-making and religious practice in these small but utterly diverse Muslim communities on an individual and communal level, thereby analyzing the complex interplay of local and transnational factors. In this way, the paper puts its focus on the study of Islam in rural and northern settings in Canada, a void in the study of Islam in the West so far. It contributes with insights to modern Muslim subjectivity formation through the lens of place-making strategies by ordinary Muslim individuals and communities. Thus, it forms part of a bigger research effort titled The Arctic Muslim aimed at taking the study of modern Muslim subjectivities into a new geographical direction by employing the concept of lived religion. Empirically, the paper presents an effort of extensive mapping drawing on a variety of data from local news outlets and social media to census data and fieldwork.
Religious Studies/Theology
Geographic Area
Islamic World
North America
Sub Area