By JoAnne Viviano & Encarnacion Pyle
Saturday, October 25, 2014
A new mosque on the West Side features ornate chandeliers, plush carpeting, moldings etched with verses from the Quran and spacious washrooms.
The new space for the Abubakar Asiddiq Islamic Center is a far cry from the storefront that the congregation has been leasing, with open ductwork, exposed PVC pipes and a leaking ceiling covered by a tarp.
But when founding member Abukar Arman is asked what makes the new building so special, he turns not to physical amenities but to faith.
“The special thing about it is the spirit of Islam that we teach, which is the foundation of the religion,” he said, “… a religion of middle ground.”
The congregation celebrates its grand opening beginning at 3:30 p.m. today with an open house at the 591 Industrial Mile Rd. site.
It is raising about $2.8 million to pay for the first phase of the project, which includes the 1,200-capacity prayer area and washrooms. It expects to raise about $1.5 million more to add a rooftop dome and minarets, and to finish the second floor with classrooms, offices and a kitchen.
The new space comes in response to the needs of a burgeoning immigrant and Islamic population that also has a number of other mosques in central Ohio bursting at the seams.
“There has been a growing number of immigrants and Muslims moving into the southwest side of Columbus, so it created a great need to have a place, not only a place of worship, but a place of ownership and belonging for our growing community,” said project director Abdoul-Latif Shmohamed.
Likewise, on the North Side, Masjid Ibnu Taymiyah has seen a need for more services as the area’s Somali Muslim population grows. So that congregation purchased property in Clinton Township this month with plans to add a second worship site.
And in Hilliard — about 10 miles from the West Side’s Abubakar Asiddiq — leaders at Noor Islamic Cultural Center are eyeing their own expansion as holiday services this year strained the 2,000-person capacity prayer area, with some worshippers observing from outdoors.
Mouhamed Tarazi, president of the Abubakar Asiddiq board, said his group started in 2004 with a handful of families in a leased storefront on Sullivant Avenue. Ten years later, more than 600 people come to prayers each Friday, and 250 children attend afterschool and weekend Quran classes.
Masjid Ibnu Taymiyah on the North Side serves more than 500 families, compared with the 40 or 50 it served in 2003 when it bought the building it currently uses at 2334 Mock Rd., said director Ahmed Sh Ahmed.
Over in Hilliard, Noor draws about 5,000 people each Friday, said Imran Malik, president of the board that oversees the center. Weekend classes are attended by 900 children, with 300 to 400 turned away each year due to space restrictions.
With its purchase of a former Value City Department Store property at 2035 Innis Rd. for $500,000, Masjid Ibnu Taymiyah seeks to serve Muslims and non-Muslims alike on the city’s North and East sides, Ahmed said.
He said the more-than-350,000-square-foot building will be renovated, with development plans to be finalized after meetings with community members to determine needs.
Hassan Omar, director of the Somali Community Association of Ohio, said the group “couldn’t have found a better building in a better location.”
The association was not involved in the purchase but is giving advice on programs, Omar said. The building will be renovated in phases and likely will feature businesses, conference rooms, classrooms and a sports and indoor recreation area, he said.
Napoleon Bell, executive director of the Columbus Community Relations Commission, said his office has received requests from the growing immigrant and refugee community for gathering spaces.
“Anytime a group purchases a space to be used productively, it is good for the entire city — and not just that specific population,” he said.
In Hilliard, leaders at Noor are pleased to welcome Abubakar Asiddiq to the West Side and hope that it helps meet the demand for Muslim worship and education, Malik said.
“This will be great because we’ll have more channels,” he said. “We are hopeful that more synergy and collaboration can be done not only between Muslim institutions but also non-Muslim and Muslim institutions at large.”
Noor worshippers hail from more than 40 ethnic backgrounds, with Arab nations, Somalia, India and Pakistan largely represented.
Its current 17,400 square feet at 5001 Wilcox Rd. includes a mosque and was opened in 2006. Its expansion plan calls for social-activity space, including a multipurpose/banquet room, gymnasium and classrooms, Malik said.
Although members still must vote on the plan, it’s expected to be built on the current 8-acre site and cost $3 million to $5 million, he said.
The new Abubakar Asiddiq space on about 10 acres on the West Side eventually will offer about 30,000 square feet for prayer services, Quran study, study circles, seminars, social services and youth activities, including soccer. Plans are to open up the space to gatherings by inter-religious and other community groups.
The congregation serves many Somalis but also other immigrants, with increasing numbers from Iraq and Palestine, and Tarazi said the new mosque is drawing Muslims from out of state to the Columbus area.
It features a prayer area separated by one-way windows that allow women to pray privately behind men while still seeing the prayer leader. Calligraphy at the entrance offers a testament of faith in Arabic, translating to “There is no God but God, and Muhammad is his messenger.”