Another no-go zone emerges.
“…establishing Islam within the borders of the Gwynn Oaks area of Baltimore City, in accordance to the Quran and Sunnah”
He shovels the fresh snow, and sprinkles salt on the driveway. It is the first snow of the season and Mustafa Sharif is getting ready for the Gwynn Oak Islamic Community (GIC) Masjid’s Open house.
Driving past suburban roads, past Liberty Heights Avenue, past the under construction Shoprite and serene Gwynn Oaks Park, past friendly neighbors helping each other park stalled cars on the icy roads, the cream and teal building is a magnificent sight in the snowfall.
A welcoming community in Baltimore City; a model community with a model masjid which resonates with the call to prayer. Centrally located near the beltway, there is optimistic talk of growth in the brand new masjid, of the school district making the high school into a magnet school, of quiet streets, historic homes, open green spaces, and convenient commute to the city without the congestion.
Of the ShopRite opening at the corner of Liberty Heights and Gwynn Oak Avenues. The grocery store will have a whole aisle of Halal meat, says the president of Howard Civic Association, Shadid Tamir Abdul-Rahim. He announces that the congregation should submit suggestions for grocery items so that they can be stocked at the store. The community looks forward to more development in the area.
“Seeing 40 houses on a 1/4 acre plots of land for $40,000 to $50,000 dollars, we targeted this area to make an Islamic community,” he conveys. 3500-4000 sq ft homes at extraordinary prices 13 years ago -now a brand new, renovated home costs $200,000.
$40,000 can still buy you a home, according to Cason, if you are ready to renovate.
He is the nephew of John (Yahya) Cason, the man behind much of the redevelopment activity. His father and uncle spearhead many of the civic initiatives in the area. Conservatively fifty Muslim families live in the area, he says, who are involved with the Gwynn Oak Islamic Community, but there are a lot more.
Down the street is the Maine Avenue, otherwise known as Islamic Way. “It’s not completely Islamic, but there is a concentration of Muslims on this street. Wholesome is the word that you will often here to describe the lifestyle Muslims have brought to the area,” said Mercedes Eugene, a former president of the civic association in a Baltimore magazine article- copies of which were handed out to visitors at the masjid.
Former drug houses were bought and renovated. There used to be a liquor store at the corner of Gwynn Oak and Rogers Ave. When it became a hub for drug dealers, Yahya Cason purchased the building and refused to rent it to the liquor store. The builder of the new supermarket evicted another liquor store, and New York Fried Chicken stands where the third liquor store used to sit.
Sharia in action.
After 4 years, the masjid is near completion. The community has raised over 1.3 million dollars; GIC must raise $40,000 more to complete the masjid construction. A fundraiser is scheduled on the first Saturday of January, 2014.
Three stories high, the masjid is American suburban, with a salute to an Islamic aesthetic with teal arches over the entrance. An elevator leads up to the third floor, which will house the gym and youth rec area. A commercial kitchen, 3 classrooms on the first floor, a musallah on the second and “a lot of attention paid to the bathroom and wudu areas.”
It’s not a huge building but it fits the immediate needs to the community. To bring Islamic life for their future generations, the community bought a house and expanded it into a masjid. After it was condemned, and to comply with current zoning laws, they decided to raze the house and build a new masjid from the ground up– a first for Baltimore City–symbolic of the new community.
“We want to raise men who are worthy of our daughters and daughters who are worthy of being mothers of our sons,” says Presley Cason, “as we grow we could easily be the majority in the area.” Working class and professional Muslims live and worship together.
A homeschooling co-op, a small Islamic school and Al Rahmah School are all options for children’s education.
Hand in hand, the Gwynn Oak Islamic Community is establishing Islam within the borders of the Gwynn Oaks area of Baltimore City, in accordance to the Quran and Sunnah, “where the character of [people of other faiths] is being influenced by our children’s upright characters.” Engaged civically and politically, these indigenous converts are raising generations of born Muslim children and asking others to join them.
And so it goes. Influenced by foreign Muslims and gone abroad to learn the true meaning of jihad and sharia. Now they are converting American neighborhoods into sharia-compliant Islamic enclaves. In the years to come, when the area is “completely Islamic”, non-Muslims who venture into the area will be accosted just as the author of this piece states blacks were in the ’50’s.