A growing community

A growing community

Mufti Ikram ul-Haq stands in the main prayer space at Masjid Al-Islam on Sayles Hill Road. The mosque is planning an expansion that will add 26,808 feet of floor space to the building to accomodate a growing Muslim population. (Breeze photo by Lauren Clem)
Local mosque looks to the future with expansion project

NORTH SMITHFIELD – When Masjid Al-Islam opened on Sayles Hill Road in 1995, the space was more than large enough for the congregants who worshiped there, Mufti Ikram ul-Haq told The Valley Breeze.

Now, as the mosque looks toward the next phase of its development, those words are no longer true.

“As we look at it now 25 years later, the community needs have outgrown the space,” the imam said during an interview at the mosque this week.

Masjid Al-Islam opened in 1995 to serve a growing community of Muslims in northern Rhode Island and southern Massachusetts. At the time, it was only the second mosque in the state, and the first purpose-built to serve a Muslim congregation. Dr. Mohammed Arif, a now-retired cardiologist living in the area, donated the land that would be used to serve a small handful of local worshippers.

Now, 25 years later, that mosque has become a thriving center of worship and community life. The mosque holds prayers five times per day, hosts weddings and offers classes and programs for children and adults. Its largest weekly gathering is Friday afternoon prayer, which draws 400 to 600 worshippers every week.

“I believe it’s part of a larger trend in the country that we have been witnessing,” said ul-Haq. “The Muslim population has been growing throughout the United States and Canada.”

Not all of those who attend services live in the area. Ul-Haq said many regular worshippers are professionals who work at the corporate parks in Woonsocket, Smithfield and Lincoln and attend Friday afternoon prayers before returning home to Boston or points further north. Others come from south of Providence, drawn by the promise of a resident scholar and a mosque that serves Muslims of all ages and ethnic backgrounds.

“It’s probably the most diverse place in the state, I would say,” he said.

Last week, ul-Haq and a team of representatives presented a plan to the North Smithfield Planning Board to expand the mosque from its current size to a capacity of more than 1,000. The addition, said ul-Haq, will offer more prayer space and gathering areas, eliminating the need to gather outside the building during special events. The addition will also include an expanded women’s prayer area and a basement that can be used for eating and other activities.

The expansion, he said, will come in especially handy during Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, the two yearly celebrations that currently draw close to 1,000 worshippers to the mosque. During Eid al-Fitr, the traditional breaking of the fast that concludes the month of Ramadan, the mosque has to pitch tents to accommodate the many visitors who spill out into the grounds due to lack of space inside. With the new addition, he said, all of those activities will fit inside the mosque.

The new addition also includes a 208-space parking lot expected to resolve longstanding parking issues on Sayles Hill Road. During Friday afternoon prayers, worshippers often park along the road due to lack of space in the current lot, drawing complaints from neighbors and concerns from police, according to members of the Planning Board. With the new lot soon to be in place, the mosque agreed to eliminate parking on Sayles Hill Road as a condition of the project.

The expansion drew general support from members of the Planning Board, who, with the exception of parking, had few concerns about the project. It also drew the relief of neighbors, several of who turned out for the meeting to express their concerns about the current parking situation.

While the mosque is still growing, project representatives told the Planning Board the rapid expansion has been relieved somewhat by other mosques opening around the state. Once one of two in Rhode Island, Masjid Al-Islam is now joined by seven other mosques, some of which are undergoing their own expansion projects. It’s a sign, said ul-Haq, that southern New England is experiencing the same growth visible in major cities around the country.

“That is how we are moving forward with our expansion, and hopefully it will be able to accommodate our needs for many years to come, not just for the next two years,” he said.

Comments

Nothing against the many Muslims that come from all over to attend prayers and functions at this Mosque...but, as has become well-documented, and as the above article states: "It has created a Traffic Nightmare for the residents of the area and the North Smithfield police."

So...in light of this what are Officials looking to allow?

From the content of Mr. Clem's article, and previous ones on this issue, they are going to allow for an expansion that cannot, and will not, alleviate the problem, rather they are going to make it worse...a awful lot worse!!

Common sense and 1st-Grade Arithmetic will tell anyone that is not Math-Challenged "It Ain't Gonna Work"!!

With attendees presently averaging 400 to 600, the addition is being designed to allow for 1,000 to possibly 1,200, yet there are only going to be 208-more parking spaces. Again I point out: "It Ain't Gonna Work"!!!

I pass through the area on many a Friday during prayer services...I see how many worshippers arrive with others in their vehicles...usually it is only the driver!

Now, back to Basic Arithmetic!

We presently have a traffic nightmare...the existing parking lot is 'Slammed Full', the overflow parking being on both sides of Sayles Hill Road, all but making this major roadway, all but impassable.

So now we are going to draw in just about double the existing number of attendees...but, we are going to add ONLY "208-More Parking Slots. 208-slots that it is being said will alleviate the existing parking overflow and also be able to provide parking for the approximate 400 new attendees, and the vehicles they will be arriving in???

I've been saying for years today's Modern Math, and how it is taught, and then the attempts to implement it...DO NOT WORK!!

Do you need more proof then this highly convoluted disaster in the making?

Bottom Line??? Our Brothers and Sisters of this faith need find another location to accommodate their needs...or, keep this existing Mosque and build another one in another part of our State to better serve their members?

I do you have it dear Watson(alpharacer)! We do indeed have an arithmetic error. Appears to me, the math of the additional new parking will not work. Elementary! Unfortunately, they'll probably just approve it anyway. They approve everything these days.

From the last article:
"Though early meetings with the RIDEM did not present any significant concerns, the application notes that previous building on the site resulted in a parking lot constructed over a wetland zone without a permit, a situation that will need to be resolved as part of the current project."

AS PART OF? How about: "BEFORE WE CONSIDER'

Anyone else here in town ever have to deal with wetlands issues and DEM or have to deal with the town and not getting a permit? I wonder if you were allowed to slide along unaddressed until the next time you needed a permit? Just asking....

I agree with the above two posters in their questioning this. IS THERE ROOM? Seems from previous building issues over wetlands, there is not and that what is proposed is woefully inadequate for the site as far as parking is concerned.

I too pass this mosque frequently and the amount of vehicles parked on the road is already a safety hazard. Couple that with the hazard of the already hazardous 146 / Sayles Hill interchange RIDOT continually fails to take action on and this is a "no-brainer".

This mosque hass already reached its full capacity and then some.

They've been good neighbors but adding to what is there is fraught with problems.

There's simply no room for more.