South Jordan » The Utah Islamic Center moved one step closer Sunday to raising money needed to build a new mosque and school in south Salt Lake Valley.
A fundraising dinner and auction Sunday evening netted about $100,000, bringing the total raised to more than $300,000, said Nadeem Ahmed, chairman of the board of Utah Islamic Center in Salt Lake City. While the group estimates it will need $600,000 to $900,000 just for the land to build a new facility, Ahmed said organizers are pleased they are a third to halfway toward that goal.
An estimated 25,000 Muslims live in Utah, mainly along the Wasatch Front, according to Utah Islamic Center.
The center rents 6,000 square feet of space to worship, in a strip mall at 9000 South and 225 West in Sandy, which opened in 2007 to serve the growing Muslim population in the south Valley. The group wants to buy land and build somewhere in the Sandy area.
"We want to build something that hasn't been done before in Utah," Ahmed said. In addition to a mosque, organizers envision a full-time elementary school, not just the Sunday school that's offered now. He said organizers also want to build an interfaith meeting hall next to the mosque that could serve multiple groups and religions.
"It's important to us to have a facility that would be open to all religions," said Imam Shuaib-Ud Din, of the Utah Islamic Center.
The economic downturn has hampered fundraising efforts a bit, but "the good news is that we're making progress," he said.
The bad news, he said, is that prices for commercial real estate, which have fallen over the past two years, may not get any lower than they are now. "We're just not quite ready to buy yet," he said.
But they could be ready in a year or two, and commercial real estate prices, pushed down by the downturn and foreclosures just like residential prices, aren't forecast to increase much in the next couple of years. The group also is considering buying an existing building and renovating it, if that's more cost-effective.
The Utah Islamic Center isn't the only Islamic group growing in Utah.
The Islamic Society of Greater Salt Lake operates the Khadeeja Islamic Center at 1019 West Parkway Avenue in West Valley City and the Masjid Al-Noor at 740 S. 700 East in Salt Lake City. It also has a full-time elementary school in West Valley City.
Iqbal Hossain, president of the Islamic Society of Greater Salt Lake, said in a phone interview Sunday that his group, like the Utah Islamic Center, also has plans to expand, and is raising money to build an elementary school and community hall in West Valley City. Right now, the group rents space for the elementary school.
The center's last major expansion of the Khadeeja Islamic Center in 2002 expanded the building's capacity to 1,500 people, from 300, and added additional parking and meeting space.
Utah Islamic Center raises $100,000 for new mosque, school
For more information on the Utah Islamic Center visit http://www.utislamiccenter.org .