Leaders of the Tri-State Islamic Center broke ground this afternoon at the site of Dubuque’s first dedicated mosque building, marking a “great moment” for the organization.
About 30 area residents congregated at the end of Radford Court to celebrate start of the building’s construction.
“We needed our own place and our own building,” said Rami Eltibi, the center’s president. “This is a great moment for us.”
The project likely will cost roughly $600,000, and fundraising efforts are ongoing. About $370,000 has been raised so far for the project, according to the center’s website.
Gary Miller, the mosque’s designer, said he plans to begin construction Tuesday. The building will be completed in four to five months, he said.
Adib Kassas, the center’s Imam, said the mosque’s construction has been long awaited.
“I think it’s time to move to a place of our own,” Kassas said. “There’s something about being able to own the land.”
Kassas said the center previously rented out space in various buildings in order to have a location to worship. But as the local Muslim community grew — largely due to an influx of students coming to study at area colleges — more space was needed, he said.
The center currently is located at 805 Century Drive. But that location is reaching its max capacity for worshippers, Kassas said.
The new mosque will accommodate up to 130 people at a time, according to Miller.
Kassas said he believes the mosque will be a gateway for others to connect with the local Muslim community.
“We want to be able to share with people our culture and show them what we are about, instead of a few crazy individuals who have psychological problems,” Kassas said, noting what he feels is a negative perception of Islam after terrorist attacks by radicals. “I can understand people’s fears, but the only way to counteract that is to show people who we really are. We can’t just hide and expect the world to change.”
Several area residents who don’t practice Islam showed up to offer support.
“This is an important event for the Muslims, but it’s also a great event for Dubuque as a whole,” said John Eby, a history professor at Loras College. “I think everyone in Dubuque will benefit from this.”
Eltibi said he believes the Mosque will attract more Muslims to Dubuque, since they’ll know there is a place for them to worship.
“Many Muslim families looking to work here will see that there is a mosque, and that they are welcome,” Eltibi said. “It will bring many great people to this city.”
Ah, build the mosque and the Muslims will come. That should make all residents feel much better.