US Muslims break ground on $2 million community center, school

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SHAFAQNA – Shouts of “Allahu Akbar” — Arabic for “God is great” — rang out as officials with the Islamic Center of Central Missouri held a ceremonial groundbreaking for a future community center and school.

Columbia Mayor Bob McDavid joined the celebration after Friday prayers at the downtown mosque, located at 201 S. Fifth St. A passage from the Quran, the Muslim holy book, was read in Arabic and then translated into English.

“We’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” said A. Rashed Nizam, chairman for the community center and school project.

The two-story, 14,000-square-foot building will have nine classrooms on the top floor for the Islamic School of Columbia. The downstairs area will house the school’s administrative offices, a multipurpose room, a kitchen, a free health clinic and space for Friday prayers. The Islamic center’s parking lot will be renovated as part of the project.

Project manager Michael McNutt said the building will cost about $2 million but that an exact cost was not available because of “geological unknowns” in site development.

The new structure will be built to the west of the Islamic center’s mosque, on the same spot where trailers that held classrooms have been located.

McNutt said the building is set to be completed in June 2016, in time for the start of school next year.

The Islamic School of Columbia is temporarily operating out of space at 5210 S. Cowan Road this year. About 70 students are attending the preschool and elementary school this year.

McNutt said the new building’s multipurpose room would be ideal for weddings, receptions and other celebrations.

“There’s nothing as special as a school,” McDavid said. “This is a town whose business is education.”

Mohammad Eldeib, chairman of the center’s board of trustees, said it was a historic moment for Columbia’s Muslim community.

“I feel great,” Eldeib said after the ceremony. “This is a great step forward. You cannot imagine the impact of this on the young generation.”

Eldeib said he looked forward to the project’s completion.

Nazim said there would be no change to the existing mosque but that some functions, including a library, would be moved to the new building. He said the changes will allow for more prayer space in the mosque as well as the some additional prayer space in the community center.

Nazim said he would like to see the new community center host lectures.

Aquib Choudhry, a member of the mosque, said the new school and community center will be beneficial for the children.

“It’s really going to benefit the community here,” he said.

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