OREM — Members of Utah Valley’s Islamic community are putting their faith on the line Saturday afternoon when they join forces with other community members to break ground for Utah County’s first Islamic mosque.
Groundbreaking ceremonies will be held Saturday at 5 p.m. on the construction site at 935 S. State Street in Orem. Dr. Brian Birch, associate vice president for academic affairs at Utah Valley University will speak at the event, and Imam Shuaib Uddin of the Utah Islamic Center in Sandy will offer the consecration prayer service.
“This is very important to us,” said Dr. Ruhul Kuddus, associate professor of biology at UVU and treasurer of the Utah Valley Islamic Center. So even though they are still about $250,000 short of the $800,000 they will need to complete the 3,300-square-foot structure, they are going to go ahead and start construction.
“For four years we have been working very hard to raise the money we need for our own mosque, and we have raised about $450,000,” he said during a telephone interview Friday afternoon. “Our concern is that our construction permit will lapse this year, and we want to start construction before that happens. So we’re going to go ahead and start and have faith that the rest of the money will come.”
Maintaining the existing construction permit is a priority for Utah Valley’s Islamic community because of the battle they fought to secure it.
“The Orem City Council and most of our neighbors are very friendly, and they have been very supportive of our efforts,” Kuddus said. “But there is a group of people who are not, who call us ‘terrorists’ and who do not want us to build a mosque. They fought against our permit — we heard them say many hateful things.
“We don’t want to go through that fight again,” Kuddus said, adding that “once we start construction they won’t be able to stop it.”
So they will begin construction immediately and hope and pray the balance of the money can be raised by the time the mosque is completed, which contractors say will be by the end of the year.
“We only have 15 or 20 Muslim families in Utah Valley,” Kuddus said, “so we can’t raise that money among ourselves.”
Nor can they rely on the 500 or so Muslim students who attend BYU and UVU.
“They will donate what they can, but they are students — they can’t give much,” Kuddus said.
To this point Kuddus said other faith groups and individuals within the community have been very generous in their support of the project. In fact, the project changed significantly because of those donations. The original plan was to first build a community center and a few storefront locations on the site. The intention was that profits from the Muslim-oriented businesses could help fund the ultimate construction of the mosque.
“We had a problem with this,” Kuddus said. “Some of our outside donors didn’t want to give us money for stores. They only wanted to donate money to the construction of a mosque. So we decided to go ahead and build the mosque first, and then we will work on the community center.”
Plans for the first phase of the project include the mosque, an ablution facility (ablution is the ritual washing of face, hands and feet before participating in prayer), a small kitchen and a parking lot. Kuddus is hopeful that additional donations can be secured from the community so that the mosque is paid for by the time construction is completed.
And Kuddus has faith that will happen.
“Utah Valley is a very good place to live,” he said. “The people are very friendly and supportive. I believe they will help us come up with the money we need.”