This past Friday was the official grand opening of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center. Local non-Muslims fought for years to try and stop this center from becoming a reality, but as usual Muslims did not care about what anyone else wants. They also showed this by rudely broadcasting the call to prayer outside the Mosque for all to hear and back in November of 2008 when the Mosque reinstated Walid Fitaihi to their board. Fitaihi's anti-Semitic statements in the past led to public pressure which forced him to resign.
Dissent greets mosque opening
Hundreds attend afternoon service, as a few protest
With the cutting of a taut green ribbon and the haunting chant of a call to prayer, a crowd of hundreds of local Muslims inaugurated a large new mosque yesterday in Roxbury Crossing.
The official opening of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, which has been in use since last fall, was greeted with relief by many Muslims, who had faced enormous controversy and financial challenges that caused the planning and construction to drag on for two decades. The building remains incomplete - many decorative elements have not yet been added, and a second phase with a school building remains just a dream - but Muslim leaders decided it was time to open.
A handful of protesters stood on the other side of Malcolm X Boulevard holding signs reading “Prayer, Yes. Extremism, No!’’ A group of Muslims marched from an interfaith breakfast over to the protest carrying white roses, which they gave to the protesters as a sign of peace. A brief argument ensued between Charles Jacobs, the leading critic of the mosque, and supporters of the mosque, and along the sidewalk a few mosque advocates carried on parallel debates with demonstrators. Eventually, the groups retreated to opposite sides of the street.
For local Muslims, it was a day for celebration, particularly because the construction had been so difficult. An estimated 1,800 worshipers packed into the building for the Friday afternoon worship service, which normally draws about 600.
“This is a big event, especially given what the Muslim community has been through,’’ said worshiper Ahmed Jabrane of East Boston, carrying a toddler on his shoulders. “This shows what America is about - pluralism, and diversity.’’
And Siham Jihad of Winthrop, wheeling her child into the mosque in a stroller, said she feels she now has a place she can call home.
“Finally I can call myself a citizen of Boston. To us, this is very significant - the end of one era, and the beginning of a new one,’’ she said. “We are here, we are here to stay, and we are here to help build this community.’’
Bilal Kaleem, the executive director of the Muslim American Society’s local chapter, pointed out that the celebrants vastly outnumbered the protesters, “and that speaks volumes about America.’’ Kaleem elliptically acknowledged that the mosque’s backers - some of whom have been accused of saying hateful things - have made mistakes. “There have been shortcomings on our part,’’ he said.
Despite the controversy, a number of dignitaries were present, including Mayor Thomas M. Menino and some city councilors and state lawmakers.
Although many speakers focused on the mosque’s triumph over controversy, others cited different reasons to celebrate. Imam Taalib Mahdee, of the Mosque of the Quran in Roxbury, noted that local Muslim institutions have not previously been highly visible in African-American parts of the city and said, “Finally we have you over in the ’hood.’’
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