A modest building with a blue dome, the Darul Arqum Islamic Center nestles in a quiet neighborhood not far from the State University of Iowa in Ames. The mosque serves members of the local Muslim community, including international students.

Saleem Baig, vice chairman of the mosque, said there are about 500 Muslims in Ames. The center has about 120 permanent members. The congregation outgrew the original mosque, located in a house, and fundraising began.

The new mosque was built and opened in November 2001. Just two months after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, the timing was delicate, but the mosque doors were opened to the local community.

“Close to 2,000 people showed up,” Baig said, and interest continues. “We invite people and we have open house. A lot of people show up. Some of them are curious.”

Although there was initial resistance from a few neighbors worried about increased traffic, the Ames community supported the mosque building project. The city council voted in favor of it, and the chief of police even spoke at Friday prayers.

“He assured us there would be no trouble: ‘If there is any problem, you call us,’” Baig recalls him saying. Baig and other members of the Ames mosque spoke to USINFO in August.

Interfaith dialogue is integral to the center’s activity. Civil engineering consultant Waddah Akili, a longtime member of the mosque, said he attends Ames Interfaith Council meetings “to bridge the gap if there are gaps to be bridged and to try to understand each other’s position.” The monthly meetings draw many denominations. “We try first to get to know each other before we try to tackle any specific issues,” Akili says. (MORE)


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