SHAFAQNA – Catering to the growing number of Muslims, the North Carolina city of Chapel Hill will open its first mosque in the next few weeks, fulfilling a five-year-old dream of the religious minority.
“Chapel Hill has been known to welcome different faiths,” the Chapel Hill Islamic Society (CHIS) Secretary, Sohail Khan, siad on Wednesday.
“I think the Muslim community, as such, has been kind of missing. Though the city has more than 50 churches, a Jewish synagogue and two Buddhist temples, it doesn’t have a mosque.
Overcoming the problem, hundreds of Chapel Hill Muslims have been forced to pray alone, travel to mosques in other cities or meet at select hours in the rooms of a local church or the Student Union.
“There are three mosques in Durham, which are accessible to me because I have a car,” Omar Rezk, an Egyptian junior majoring in nutrition in the University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Public Health, who has attended a mosque in Durham since he was a kid, said.
“I know for some students on campus who don’t have cars, that does affect them to a certain degree.”
Muslims students have their own prayer room in UNC, which is opened from 8 am to 10 pm on a daily basis.
The dream of having a mosque started in 2010 when CHIS bought a four-bedroom home on nearly an acre of land at 103 Stateside Drive for the purpose of creating a worship place. By 2014, Chapel Hill Planning Commission approved the property after applying some changes to the place, with a cost of more than $3,500 paid by CHIS.
“The fact that we got our primary approval in June of 2014 didn’t allow us to start work immediately. It meant a host of other, smaller approvals until we finally got our construction permit a year later.”
Providing funds for the mosque has been the biggest challenge for the city’s Muslim community.
It is noteworthy that with an estimated of $150,000 price tag from donations, the project is expected to be completed by November.