Lincoln Muslims seek new mosque

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Lincoln, Neb. – Sunni Muslims meet at the Islamic Foundation of Lincoln mosque.

Story and photos by Nicole Konen, NewsNetNebraska

Off of a long, bumpy road in northwest Lincoln is a small building that looks like a one-story house. It’s the Islamic Foundation of Lincoln’s mosque and it’s running out of room. IFL president Justin Abdurrahman Wood said the mosque is at capacity. On busy days, up to 250 people fill the Sunni mosque’s prayer area and spill over into other rooms. One solution is to relocate using the $150,000 they already have saved. The IFL wouldn’t be the only mosque to do so; in a study released this month by the Hartford Institute, one of the major findings was that the U.S. has seen a 74 percent increase in the number of mosques since 2000.

The IFL’s move to a more central location may mean more visibility, for better or for worse. A prominent example was New York’s Park51 Muslim center being met with protest in 2010 for being planned so close to ground zero. Opposition around the country may be more common than previously thought though partly because of a lack of documentation. The most recent nearby attack took place in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in 2010. According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, it involved a Muslim boy and a mother who were attacked by members of the opposing team at a softball game. They were also called names like “raghead” and “terrorist.”

Muslims in Nebraska face discrimination, await mosque

Just because those attacks didn’t happen in Lincoln though doesn’t mean it’s not possible here – there are already plenty of instances of discrimination. University of Nebraska – Lincoln finance and management major Jwamer Majid came to the U.S. at age 8. He was once shunned by one of his friend’s parents after revealing he’s Muslim. Majid said the parents told him he would be radical like the people they saw on TV. “That’s not what I was taught as a Muslim,” he said. “I was upset because he was a really cool friend of mine. I’m very excited for the mosque though; It would be an opportunity for Americans to see who Muslims really are.”

Imene Belhassen, a modern languages Ph.D. candidate, spoke of her experience with discrimination. When she goes through airport security she faces more intense scrutiny. “Don’t get behind Muslims because they really do get ‘random checks’ every time, but it’s not random at all. They made me 45 minutes late for my flight and even checked through my bags of candy.” Belhassen also said she hopes the IFL’s mosque will be built, but knows they haven’t had an easy time funding the project.
The Islamic Foundation of Lincoln’s current mosque on North First Street.

Financial challenges facing mosque addressed in meeting

At the IFL’s March 3 dinner, the Muslim community addressed some of those financial challenges. Brother Yusuf Wells and others went over their history of donations received since 2009 (about $110,000 total), the factors considered when scouting for property and details like what kind of account and payment system they would use for the mosque fund. “This is all for Allah. This is transparent and we have nothing to hide,” said Wells.

Several land plots including a location north of the interstate and one south of town were discussed in detail. Most, however, were either too expensive or too far away. Wells said that most people who go to the current mosque live nearby, so renovating the current mosque is a cheaper and more convenient possibility.
If the IFL were to renovate, they would like to see new bathrooms, a bigger library and more parking space.
“One thing’s for sure though,” said Wells, “you have to be two things for this project and any project: willing and capable.”
An architecture student’s sketch of a possible design for the new mosque.