The American Muslim Association of Oklahoma City completed work on their new mosque, 3201 N.W. 48th. Saleem Quraishi, the president of the association’s board, said plans are in the works for an opening service, but no date is set. In the meantime, the community has started to use the facility for daily and Juma’h prayer, or Friday congregational prayer.
The AMAOKC moved onto the 12-acre lot just east of Interstate 44 in 1984. The original facility, a combination gym and prayer center, is still on the property. It was the first mosque in Oklahoma City, although Quraishi said it isn’t truly a mosque.
“We were really in a gym,” Quraishi said. “The Prophet ” peace be upon him ” said wherever you go, try to build a house for God. A masjid (mosque) is a prayer hall; that is its purpose.”
Quraishi said that the mosque is the central worship place for approximately 200 families, and the growth of AMAOKC required the building of a new facility. The mosque is phase one of three possible phases on the property. Three buildings were destroyed to make room for the mosque; two small multi-family units still remain on the property.
“Phase two will be joining the new facility to the old one,” Quraishi said. “We will probably start phase two at the end of 2009, but that is still being discussed. Phase three, and we’re just in the talking phase of this, will probably be a retirement home.”
The AMAOKC is overseen by a board of five members. A committee of 12 members oversees the day-to-day operations of the community and facility. Hasan Farrah, a Somali-born imam and adjunct professor, sits on both bodies and is the prayer leader (imam) for AMAOKC.
The families comprising the community are a mix of about 75 nationalities, including African, Middle Eastern and Asian. The largest ethnic group is from the Indian subcontinent, especially Bengali.
“We are a very diverse community,” Quraishi said. “We are Sunni, but we also have Shi’a who are members here. Also, we have African-American and Anglo families. We get many Anglo visitors to the mosque. They have many, many questions about who we are and what we believe.”
Some of those visitors come from the Mayfair Heights neighborhood, where the mosque is located. Prior to the construction project, members of AMAOKC went door to door in Mayfair Heights to meet their neighbors and explain their plans. Quraishi said the responses were overwhelmingly positive.
Two of those neighbors, John and Leanne Cheek, live across the street. John Cheek is an ESL instructor in Mid-Del Public Schools and his wife is a graduate student in library science at the University of Oklahoma. John Cheek said he has heard positive comments from his neighbors about the presence of a mosque in their midst.
“We’re pretty excited about it,” he said. “We see it as an opportunity to get to know people from different cultures who are very much a part of our community. And as an ESL instructor, I think it benefits me in terms of knowing my students, their culture and their background.”
Quraishi said most of their visitors from the neighborhood have been from the younger generations, teens and 20-somethings. He described the group’s relationship with Mayfair Heights as very positive. “We’ve been here 24 years, and we have had no incidents, no hate crimes, no vandalism.”
As part of the opening service for the new mosque, Quraishi said the neighborhood will be invited to see the facility, ask questions and to get to know the Muslims who worship and fellowship there.
Quraishi also said Juma’h prayer is open for people who are interested in Islam.
The mosque is also open for group tours. Quraishi said many student groups are curious to see the mosque, and the congregation is rightly proud of their new facility, which was built with no debt.
“Our community gave all the money to build this facility,” Quraishi said. “We received donations from $1 to $100,000 from our members.” “Greg Horton