Rhode Island Mosque Plans Expansion for Young, Native Members

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  • Mosque attendance has tripled in 15 years
  • The tapestry is changing — growing, yes, but also becoming younger and more native-born

Built 24 years ago, Masjid al-Islam in North Smithfield in Rhode Island is expanding its building to welcome a growing number of its younger, native-born members, Providence Journal reported.

“In the past 15 years, I have witnessed a lot of growth here,” Mufti Ikram ul-Haq said.

“Fifteen years ago, I would say that the population was mostly immigrant [here],” ul-Haq said. “Now, the majority of Muslims [in the US] are, like myself, born in the US. That trend is mirrored here.”

Haq said that when he arrived in 2005. Friday prayers had about 200 attendees. Today, those numbers have tripled, to an average of around 600 worshipers.

The expansion of the now 8,000-square-foot space would increase it to between 15,000 and 20,000 square feet, according to the mufti.

The expansion would include additions to the prayer space and upgrades to the facility’s septic and well systems to ensure that they keep up to code.

Rhode Island Mosque Plans Expansion for Young, Native Members - About Islam

Growing Number of Muslims

Muslims make up less than 1% of the adult population in the Providence metro area, according to the Pew Research Center.

Nationally, Muslims make up 0.9% of the adult population, according to the Pew Center, and their numbers have increased from 2.35 million in 2007 to 3.45 million in 2017.

“I’d say about 40% of our population is 35 or younger at the masjid,” he said.

“In 2005, at that time, it was a much smaller segment of the community, and younger people are more likely to have children.”

The expansion plan is due to be presented to the North Smithfield Planning Board during a meeting at the Primrose Fire Station on Thursday at 7 pm.

Although the expansion will proceed with Masjid al-Islam’s congregants’ needs in mind, Ul-Haq said he wants the site’s neighbors to feel as if it is their home as well.

“We are looking forward to the support of our community,” he said. “This place is not just for Muslims. It is for everyone.

“All are welcome.”

Muslims in Rhode Island

Muslims began meeting in the 1960s and 70s in the student’s union building at the University of Rhode Island and surrounding smaller communities to pray and develop a community for worship and socialization.

This small group of Muslims would often travel to Quincy, Massachusetts just to find a congregation with which to pray. In 1975, they had grown sufficiently, and the planning for a permanent Islamic center began.

The Masjid’s foundation was laid to serve the religious and spiritual needs of the local Muslims.

Masjid Al-Islam offers congregational prayers, Islamic education, religious advice by qualified Imams, as well as many other community activities.

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