What began as a small group of people who met in each other’s homes has now become the Islamic Center of St. Joseph. The growth of Islam in St. Joseph has been paralleled the world over. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world and has acquired a new address in St. Joseph, Missouri.
The new mosque (house of prayer) is located at 2325 Messanie St. where an open house celebration was held Saturday March 5 from noon till 5 p.m. “We are committed to this community,” President, Ramadhan Washington of the Islamic Society of Greater St. Joseph said. That commitment is also evident with the selection of the mosque site. It is literally 50 yards from the old shoe store where the mosque was last housed.
Members of the community were invited into the new mosque to see the building and educate themselves about Islam beliefs and practices. The walls of the foyer were covered with posters explaining how the Islam religion views women, Jesus, children and many other interesting topics.
Literature was available for visitors. Imam, (Spiritual Leader) Omar Hazim was there signing and promoting his new book “Islam in the Heartland of America,” which he authored to inform and educate the public about how Islam is taught in the mosque in Topeka, Kansas. The book’s editor, Kahlil Green sums up the purpose of the book in the publication’s introduction. “For anyone who ever thought about or wondered what is taught in the Friday services at a mosque, for them, this book is a must read.” (ISBN 978-1-4568-5797-4)
MWSU student, Alisher Sharipov (Ali) helped build the mosque and recently was involved in repairing the roof. “There was a problem with the dome; we had to install a slope and put roofing materials on it,” Sharipov said. He was also involved in the construction phase of the project.
“As we worked on the building a few people would drive by yelling things that were not too nice at us,” Sharipov said. “I understand where these feelings come from. Some people are confused about who we are. Islam is actually a religion of peace.” Sharipov is a junior at Western, and is currently studying accounting on a student visa. He is from Turkmenistan in central Asia.
Not all members are from foreign lands. Self proclaimed army brat, James Rager is a member of the local Islamic group. Rager was reared a Catholic with his military family in Germany then became an atheist until six years ago when he converted to Islam.
“When we come to pray at the mosque we focus on God. That is why the women pray in a separate area. The men can pray without distraction this way,” Rager said. “Our commitment is to this neighborhood and hopefully lowering some of the violence in the area.”
A portion of the violence has been directed at the mosque as reported by St. Joseph Police Officer Roy Wedlow. He was on hand at the open house during his lunch time. The leaders of the church asked him to stop by during the open house. “There has been one arrest of a man who was allegedly threatening the mosque and attempting to vandalize it,” Wedlow said. “I hope this mosque can educate people and lower the crime rate in the area by helping people and changing the perception of Islam.”