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Islamic mosque nearly complete in northern Longview

By Glenn Evans
June 4, 2012 at 11 p.m.

Construction is nearing completion on a mosque and Muslim community center on the northern tip of Longview.

"The mosque is complete," said Dr. Mohammad Rashad, the imam of the mosque on Amy Street. "And in July, we plan, before Ramadan starts - one week before that - we're going to do the inauguration. And after that, we're planning to have an open house for all the people who have supported us. We'll invite all the neighbors and the city and its people."

The roughly 40 Muslims, who have been meeting in a Longview apartment for about 30 years, announced plans in January to build a meeting place on a 6.6-acre lot just off the northern Longview city limit.

On Monday, community spokesman Saleem Shabazz said construction of the roughly 3,000-square-foot center is all but completed.

"The only thing left to do is the parking lot, and the carpeting on the inside of the building, and we've got to get the dome in place," Shabazz said. "Ramadan is starting in July this year, and we're hoping to have the mosque open by then."

In the Islamic faith, Ramadan is a 30-day period of inner reflection, devotion to God and self-control that, on the Islamic lunar calendar, occurs about 11 days earlier on the Gregorian calendar each year.

When plans for the mosque and community center were announced earlier this year, some residents of the thin, dead-end road expressed concerns about increased traffic.

Some neighbors also were concerned the center could draw anti-Islamic disturbances to the quiet street. Signs bearing the name, Jesus, sprang up in some Amy Street yards, borrowed from a First Baptist Church of Longview citywide outreach.

"Muslims are not insulted by the name of Jesus," Shabazz said, adding, "Things just kind of subsided."

Meanwhile, members of St. Andrew Presbyterian Church reached out to the local Muslim community, Shabazz said. He said the initiative came from the Presbyterian Church USA leadership.

"I think that's a big deal, myself," he said. "Because, every once in a while you'll have a congregation do that, but to have the big (denominational) body do that is great."

St. Andrew member Steve Crane said initial reports about the mosque prompted the Christians to reach out to members of the other faith. St. Andrew Presbyterian held Sunday School lessons to learn about the faith and invited speakers including Shabazz.

"Some members were concerned about the tone of some of what we were reading in the newspaper," Crane said. "And we didn't want the Muslim community to think that was an example of all Christian congregations. ... We wanted to reach out to our neighbors in the Muslim community and not react out of fear."

Members of the Amy Street neighborhood who had expressed concerns about the mosque were not immediately available Monday for comment.



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