Groundbreaking of Masjid-e-Bilal in Folsom
By Zaki Syed

Mayor of Folsom
Folsom Vice Mayor
Recitation from the Holy Qur’an
Riaz Siddique

When the Islamic Society of Folsom (ISF) announced its plans to build a mosque they were met with protests throughout the city. People were skeptical of a Muslim presence, believing in stereotypes of Muslims as terrorists and extremists. However, on April 14, 2007, ISF celebrated the groundbreaking for Folsom Masjid - Masjid-e-Bilal. This time there wasn’t even a single protester in sight.
How did ISF take a negative situation and turn it into a positive one? They did it through dedication and commitment in one area: community outreach.
“We went to churches, rotary clubs… and explained to them the true meaning of Islam,” said Riaz Siddique, president of ISF, “And that calmed people down.” Siddique told people from the bottom of his heart that Islam condemns terrorism, and that terrorism has absolutely no place in Islam.
ISF also reached out to the Folsom City Council, which in turn reached out to them. Kerri Howell, city council member, commented on the support ISF received from the Folsom City Council during the protest.

Groundbreaking ceremony
Religious scholars before the event

“There is a separation of church and state,” said Howell, “At the same time it is our duty (City Council) to ensure there is tolerance for different races and religions.”
Like Howell, Eric King, Vice Mayor for the City of Folsom, is also accepting of different faiths. “It’s exciting… and it’s great that this is (Masjid-e-Bilal) going to be a part of our community,” said King before the groundbreaking ceremony.
The ceremony was held outside on the construction site, and in front of the entrance ISF volunteers had planted an American Flag.
“They (Muslims) wanted to make a statement that they belong to this land (America),” said Imam Aziz of SALAM, “And they’re celebrating being able to build a Masjid in it.”
The celebrations began at around 11 am when attendees were ushered into a makeshift tent for the start of the groundbreaking ceremony.
The ceremony began with a recitation of the Holy Qur’an, followed by a speech from Sheikh Aamir who talked about equality and diversity in Islam. Folsom Mayor Andy Morin and Folsom City Council member also said a few words of encouragement to the Muslim community.
“Your dream has started to become a heavenly reality,” said Morin. Morin’s wife had a broken foot, and he had to take his son to an extracurricular event. Despite all of this Morin said he wanted to make it a point to welcome the Muslim community in Folsom.
Jeff Starsky, Folsom City Council member agreed. “One of the greatest things in the United States is religious freedom,” said Starsky. “I will fight and defend your religious freedom and I hope you will do the same for me,” he added. Starsky believes that it is important to break down the barriers of ignorance in Folsom, so that people of the citycan truly understand Islam.
Devin Morin, freshman at Folsom High School and son of Mayor Andy Morin, also believes that education is a crucial step for understanding. “We need to educate ourselves and others, and remember that we are all American.”
During the groundbreaking ceremony there was an onslaught of rain that created a messy situation. However, the attendees were not deterred.
“It’s a beautiful day, Allah’s mercy is on us,” said Rashid Bin Quadir Thomas, member of Board of Directors at Masjid Ibrahim.
Hafiz Shaheer Zafir agreed saying that despite the rain the groundbreaking ceremony had a great significance. “Very special day, it means a lot… I have been praying for this day to come,” said Hafiz Shaheer. Hafiz Shaheer believes the masjid is a central part of the Muslim community and that it brings the Muslim community together.
The groundbreaking ceremony did bring together Muslims from all over the greater Sacramento Area.
“I am thrilled to see all these people, at this event. It shows that the Muslim community really cares,” said Ali Siddiqui, Los Rios community college student.
To conclude the groundbreaking ceremony attendees grabbed shovels and dug into the ground. It signified the first step towards the building of the Masjid Bilal. While digging the attendees were laughing, joking, as joy filled their faces on seeing their dream come true!
“It was very fun, and I am excited because we are going to have a place to pray,” said 11-year-old Tulaib Zafir. Zafir said that breaking the ground brought the Muslim community together and will make them more strong in the future.
Omar Siddiqui, Senior at Belle Vista High School agreed with Zafir’s observation. “The collective effort put in building a masjid always brings the community together,” said Siddiqui.
Masjid Bilal will be completed in 18 months and will include a two-story building with over 30,000 sq ft of space comprising seven class rooms, a library, a computer room and principal’s office, a multi purpose hall for school use and community functions and a prayer overflow area.
The Masjid is a place where the community members can give the kids the best education, teach them good values, and make them loyal US citizens according to Riaz Siddiqui. However, if we, the Muslim Ummah doesn’t work hard then mosques will start to become extinct in America.
Islam has been portrayed negatively by the media and because of that people are more resistant to the construction of mosques in their community. Therefore it is up to us to show and educate others about the true meaning of Islam. It is not good enough for us to be just American; we have to be 100% American. Each and every one of us has to be the model of patriotism, loyalty, and hard work. ISF through community outreach, and hard work was able to show the City of Folsom what Islam truly represents. Community outreach can be done, it has been done, and it needs to be done so that we can preserve our mosques. Remember having fun is important, but so is Jannah. Educate others, and do it for Allah! Do it for Allah!

 

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 pakistanlink.com . All Rights Reserved.