BOSTON – A crowd of hundreds of local Muslims inaugurated a large new mosque last week in Roxbury Crossing. The 68,000 sq foot Islamic Cultural Center in the heart of Boston, designed by Dr. Sami Angawi, and pioneered by board member Dr. Walid Fitaihi, Dr. Osama Kandeel and others, celebrated its inauguration with the historic attendance of the first Muslim in the United States Congress, Keith Ellison, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.
This new Islamic cultural center in America is tremendously significant as it resides 5 minutes from the heart of downtown Boston and less than 3 miles from Harvard, MIT, Boston University, Tufts, Boston College, and less than 10 miles from 50 other universities.
The new Islamic Cultural Center features accommodation for up to 3000 worshippers; library and interfaith center space; retail spaces for gift shops; numerous halls for cultural and educational functions; conference and office spaces; underground parking; a 135-ft minaret; space for a computer lab; facilities for washing and preparing the deceased for burial; and in Phase 2, will Insha Allah include a school with 17 classrooms.
US Representative Keith Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat and the first Muslim to serve in Congress commented on the inauguration.
“This mosque shows the greatness of our country, where people of all faiths and all backgrounds can make their own little place in the sun, and it shows the rest of the world that religious tolerance is the right way to go,” he said.
Governor Deval Patrick had to cancel his appearance at the breakfast at the last minute, but sent along a video greeting that made his support for the project quite clear. Patrick opened his taped remarks with “Assalamu alaikum,’’ and called the mosque opening a “wonderful milestone.”
Later, at the ribbon-cutting, Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who was greeted as a hero, told the crowd, “I am so proud to stand with all of you.”
Dr. Walid Fitaihi, board member of center commented on this occasion saying, “By the Grace of Allah, this project succeeded in highlighting the dynamic and holistic role Islamic centers should have in the West, through comprehensiveness in its mission and true partnership of the Islamic society with the city of Boston, the Boston redevelopment authority and the mayor of Boston, to be a consistent part of the cultural matrix, and carry a responsibility beyond the daily prayers.
“Today what we see is the birth of the interfaith dialogue approach emphasized on by the American administration and presented in the Holy Qur’an, “We created you from a pair of a make and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye know each other (not that ye despise each other).”
“We have got here today with the support of Allah and the belief the group had in this project for around 20 years and despite the different challenges we faced,” he added. – SG