Several elected officials and community activists were on hand to praise the community center’s goals to promote cultural understanding and help families with jobs and education. Afterward, more than 250 people celebrated with food and games for children.
“This project has been 20 years in the making,” said William Masheleh, spokesman for the new mosque. “It’s vital to our community and in building a great future for our families. … Our main goal is to make sure our kids are raised well, are successful and making a positive impact in today’s society.”
The metro area has more than 15 mosques serving about 50,000 Muslims, including about 8,000 who live in north St. Louis and north St. Louis County, Masheleh said.
Tina Jabbar, 26, of Florissant, said she used to travel to a mosque in West County. “We need something in the community that is close and nearby,” she said.
Jabbar, who has two children ages 4 and 10 months, also is excited about the center’s goal to open a school serving children through the eighth grade. “I want them to learn about their religion and Arabic,” she said.
The mosque takes up a two-story building on Dunn Road that used to house State Farm Insurance offices. Organizers raised funds to buy the building in December, and daily prayers began this month.
Over the next few months, plans are to add programs that help with financial, literacy and computer skills, as well as finding jobs and housing. Leaders also want to open a food bank and provide after-school programs for children.
“When I think about some of the programs and services that you are going to be offering … every place in this region will benefit from that,” said St. Louis Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed, “because what you will be doing is stabilizing our community from end to end.”
Hazelwood Mayor Matthew Robinson and St. Louis County Executive Charlie A. Dooley were both thankful for the diversity the mosque brought to the area and stressed the importance of religious tolerance.
“We are different, from different backgrounds,” Dooley said, “but yet we are allowed to come together in a country and work to be anything you want to be.”
Other Mosques in Missouri:
Columbia (1) Kansas City (6) Manchester (1) Mineral Point (1) Rolla (1) Springfield (1) St Louis (2) St. Louis (3) Warrensburg (1)