CAIRO - Fulfilling a four-year dream, the growing Muslim community of Rolla opened on Friday, January 20, a new Islamic center to accommodate its growing needs, inviting other faiths to share their joy, the Rolla Daily News reported.
If there is anyone who ever wondered, Who are these guys and what are they doing inside that building?' I hope they will be here, Islamic Center of Rolla Building Committee Advisor Haitham Shtaieh said.
Planned since 2007, the Islamic center was suggested to accommodate a growing Muslim population in Rolla that has more than doubled in the last five years.
Following months of hard work, the center was finally ready for worshippers.
Previously, we had people overflowing the mosque, Building Committee member Dr. Syed Huq said.
People were praying on the sidewalks.
Hosting Muslims daily and Friday prayers, the center would also include a warming kitchen, a children's play area, a women's lounge and a set of classrooms.
The classrooms would be used to teach children about their faith while their parents attend Friday services.
It's basically the equivalent to Sunday school, Shtaieh said.
Moreover, the mosque building committee hopes the new center would encourage Muslim students to take residence in Missouri, especially foreign students from traditionally Muslim countries.
Having this building makes it easier for those students and also for the university to recruit those students, Building Committee member Ghulam Bhan said.
Therefore, the Muslim Student Association Islamic was so active in raising funds for the center, which was financed completely through private donations.
There have been some questions about where the money was coming from and if the university contributed money to this building, and the answer to that is absolutely not, Shtaieh said.
Most of the money comes from these students hopping in their cars and going to other mosques across the country and asking for donations.
The center is still seeking donations, as the building has very few furnishings and will require upkeep, Shtaieh added.
At the opening ceremony, members of the Islamic center building committee hailed the welcoming atmosphere they have been enjoying at Rolla city.
When I came in 2009, I was a bit unsure of how people would perceive me as a Muslim, committee member Faraj Muhammad said.
Pleasantly surprised by what he found, Muhammad confirmed he has never felt discriminated against and found the community of Rolla very accepting of their values and beliefs.
MSA Center Representative Anan Takroori agreed.
For me, it feels normal to do anything that a normal student would do, Takroori said.
In fact, I get a lot of respect from other students and faculty at the university for my work with the Islamic Center.
Reflecting this understanding, the committee members employed Rolla contractor Jim Larson to construct the $1.3 million facility.
They also joke that everything was bought in Rolla, except the prayer hall carpeting which were imported from Turkey.
Since 9/11, US Muslims, estimated between six to seven million, have become sensitized to an erosion of their civil rights, with a prevailing belief that America was stigmatizing their faith.
Anti-Muslim sentiments have grown sharply in the US in recent months over plans to build a mosque near the site of the 9/11 attacks in New York, resulting in attacks on Muslims and their property.
This has prompted many American Muslims to float initiatives to reach out to the public to help change the negative view about the sizable minority.
Members of Rolla Islamic center and the MSA have participated in community outreach programs including volunteering at food banks at Christian churches.
They also cooperated in taking water and other supplies to assist in the relief efforts following the EF-5 tornado that struck the Joplin in May.