Plymouth’s Islamic community center is growing membership and community ties
It’s been 13 months since the Northwest Islamic Community Center opened its doors at the building it shares with U.S. Post Office at 3300 Plymouth Boulevard, and, according to Center members, the first year has been a significant success.
After a debate-filled 2011, the group was approved by the City Council to purchase the building for $770,000. It took a group of devoted community members more than six months and more than $200,000 in renovation costs to complete the initial phase of the center, which includes a large prayer room and two education classrooms for students studying English and math.
The Center officially opened in July 2012.
Board Member Mateen Ali has been involved with the project since early planning stages in 2009 and said he’s been pleased with the progress.
“We’ve unpacked the boxes, now we want to do a little more,” Ali said.
The center is host to five prayer times throughout the day, weekend prayer services, a youth council and a number of interfaith community events throughout the year.
“Right now we are taking steps to improve,” Ali added. “What we wanted from the beginning was a place for our kids to come and meet other people and, at the same time, give back to the community.”
Ali, born in India, grew up in Plymouth and graduated from Armstrong High School in 1984. His children, Aasin, 14, and Sanah, 11, attend Wayzata High School and Wayzata East Middle School, respectively.
Prior to the Plymouth facility opening, Ali said he had to travel to Fridley’s Islamic Center of Minnesota for prayers and social events with other Muslims. Having a center in Plymouth, he said, has opened many doors for his children and has brought his faith closer to home.
“One day, a couple months ago, I was riding back from the center with my kids,” Ali said. “They told me; ‘dad, thank you for getting us involved, we love going to the center and we enjoy being there.’ That made my day. It teaches them that they are first Muslims and Americans. It gives them a sense of identity.”
Center supporter and Plymouth resident Dr. Amin Rahmatullah said the facility has bolstered his faith experience as well. An improvement that was most notable during Ramadan – a worldwide observation month of fasting that coincides with the month in which Muslims believe the Quran was revealed.
“Last year was good, but this year was the best Ramadan,” Rahmatullah said. “I could go to the center every day with my kids and family. Before, we couldn’t make it to the [Fridley] center every day. Prior to the NWICC, I don’t remember going to the other center for prayers more than three or five days during Ramadan.”
He continued to say that roughly 550 people attended the completion of Ramadan prayer services. And, at each fast-breaking through the holiday, a center family would sponsor a dinner for prayer services.
Additionally, the Center has been focusing energy on strengthening interfaith community ties. For example, on Aug. 4 NWICC invited the community to join in a Ramadan dinner and to learn about the Muslim faith and the work the center is doing.
Around 150 non-Muslims attended.
“It was fabulous, just phenomenal,” Rahmatullah said. “I learned so much about other faiths [that night], which was wonderful.”
“We really want to be a true neighbor to the community and other local churches,” Ali added.
Ali continued to say that a great relationship with Plymouth Creek Christian Church has been estalished, and he hopes to grow interfaith connections throughout the community through continued open programming.
Thus far, the Center has hosted a Health Expo, a tax workshop and Islam 101 – a free monthly lecture series to improve awareness and understanding of Islam.
There is also an active 8-10 member youth council, whose members volunteer in a number of areas, including working with Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners. Furthermore, as many as 350 children attend weekly Sunday school lessons at the center.
The Center’s formal membership currently consists of roughly 80 families, but Ali said it is always growing. He continued to say that he knows of at least half a dozen families who have relocated to Plymouth specifically to be closer to the center.
“Things are going very well in the first year, much better than we even expected,” Rahmatullah said. “It’s been amazing at how busy it’s been and the number of people that come through the center.”
Ali said regular guests come from Maple Grove, Brooklyn Park and Medina as well.
In the future, members of the NWICC would like to continue improving the building itself, including landscaping improvements and a few coats of fresh paint.
Rahmatullah said that reflecting on the first year makes him excited to look toward years to come.
“The future looks fabulous,” he said. “I think we’re going to really grow. There’s no question about it, the future will be excellent.”
Ali continued to note that the broader community has been very accepting of the center. When the center first submitted its plans to the city, it drew some opposition from residents.
Ali said that he hasn’t felt or seen any lingering opposition since the center opened, and invites anyone who is interested in learning about the Center to stop by at any time.
“Anyone is welcome to come in and join us, talk to us and hang out with us,” he said. “That’s the message we want to convey to our community.”
As a Plymouth resident for the greater part of his life, Ali is genuinely appreciative of having a location close to home to share his faith and community with his children, family and friends.
“I grew up here, my kids were born here, and I see myself here,” he said. “This is my home; my community. Having a place like this really helps. We are as American as any other person, but we are also Muslims at the same time.”
For more information about the center, visit nwicc-mn.org.
Contact Brian Rosemeyer at [email protected]