Ambassadors from half a dozen Middle Eastern nations joined with Montgomery County and Maryland state officials Sunday to help suburban Maryland Muslims break ground for an Islamic center in Silver Spring.
Work on a multipurpose educational building, the first structure in the five-unit complex of the projected Muslim Coummunity Center at 15200 New Hampshire Ave, is expected to begin within the next few weeks, according to Nader Dajani, chairman of the center board of directors.
According to Dajani, the planned Maryland center will augment the services of the Islamic Center in Washington, which "has become too crowded," and also will be more accessible to the nearly 1,000 Muslim families who live in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, he said.
The rapidly growing Muslims community in the suburbs has been conducting weekly classes for the last 2 1/2 years in space rented from Tilden Junior High School and Woodward High School in Rockville.
Some 150 students participate in the three-hour Sunday morning sessions, which feature religious instruction and Arabic language classes for the young people as well as programs for parents.
"When parents bring their children, we have something for them too, though it is not necessary always religious," explained Dajani. At 12:30 p.m. parents and children come together for zuher, the traditional Muslim noon prayers, which signal the end of the Sunday school.
Nearly 500 persons braved last Sunday's rain for the ground-breaking for the first unit which "we are planning, God willing, will be ready for the Eid prayer," Dajani said. Eid, which this year falls in late August, is a feast day that breaks the month long fast of Ramadan, and is one of the central festivals of the Islamic calendar.
When completed, the projected Muslim Community Center in Silver Spring will feature a mosque, an information and administration building and three classroom buildings, one of which also will house a library. The complex will serve as a cultural and social center for area Muslims as well as a religious institution.
The projected cost is about $15 million, Dajani said, adding that with the present rate of inflation, "every day we delay makes the cost go up." The board hopes to complete the entire complex "in the next 10 to 15 years, depending upon the funding situation," he said.
The funding for the initial multi purpose building was given a large boost Sunday by an unexpected pledge of $250,000 from a member of the audience, Alex Dandy, a Lebanese American from Charleston, W. Va. and Bethesda.
Dajani said the venture would be financed with "donations from our community and with a little help from overseas" from Muslim sources there. He said there are an estimated 50,000 Muslims in thee Washington metropolitanarea. CAPTION: Illustration, no caption