From the Stockton Record:
By Jennie Rodriguez
Record Staff Writer
July 25, 2009 12:01 AM
TRACY - Overflowing worshippers gather in a patio outside a small residential building with boarded-up windows that now serves as the Tracy Islamic Center.
The tiny former living room is too small to accommodate the worshippers at many of the five-times-a-day prayer sessions.
But the future holds stained glass windows, dome rooftops and ample space at Corral Hollow and Larch roads.
County planners recently approved the site that will become a 13,800-square-foot mosque with a library, multipurpose hall and community rooms.
"We are looking for something beautiful, safe and respectfully located, so we can invite our neighbors," said Mohammad Arain, president of the center.
Some of those neighbors opposed the project when it was initially proposed. Mostly they were concerned about traffic. Arain said mosque leaders met with those residents to clear up a misunderstanding that a new group was moving in.
"I'm really appreciative to our neighbors and our planning commissioners," Arain said.
Neighbor Steve Schweiger said he is still concerned about heavier traffic, which he says has been increasing in recent years on Larch Road, which is home to about a half-dozen churches. He believes that a larger center will draw even more people.
"I don't want it here," Schweiger, 52, said. "But it is what it is."
Tracy Islamic Center, currently at 11299 W. Larch Road, has outgrown its existing 1,000 square feet just east of where the new center will be. The planned building "is a real community need," Arain said, since membership has grown from a few dozen to 150 in the past 10 years.
It's the third major new Islamic Center or mosque planned in San Joaquin County. An Islamic Center is planned in Lodi and a mosque in Morada.
Now that the converted house in Tracy can no longer accommodate all those who come to prayer, the overflowing worshippers gather on a patio outside of the center. When they run out of room there, they congregate in a shaded area beyond.
"This place is very small," said Tariq Khan, a 39-year-old Tracy resident. "People pray outside in the parching sun."
Sabeen Fatima, who is married to Khan, said a larger mosque will benefit future generations, such as the couple's three children, ages 1 to 7.
"It also helps to beautify the area," Arain said.
Currently, the congregation rents classrooms at local schools on Sunday for children's religious studies.
They also rent halls for special events, such as Ramadan, the Islamic observance of the day the Quran, the Muslim religious text, was said to have been revealed to Islam's founder, the Prophet Muhammad, according to tradition.
"Building a mosque will help accommodate everything," said Muhammad Nazir, secretary of the center.
The future mosque, Tracy's first multifunctional Islamic center to be constructed for its purpose, will be paid for by donations from the worshippers. They will build slowly, as the donations come in.
So far, they've spent $80,000 to $90,000 on fees and traffic studies, Arain said.
Mosque leaders estimate the building will be complete in 10 years, as donations are collected. Construction on the multipurpose hall could begin by next summer if building permits and enough funding is obtained, Arain said.
In the future, mosque leaders plan to add community rooms, a library and a second floor of classrooms.
The mosque will face Saudi Arabia's Mecca, as is Islamic custom.
Some of the new neighbors said they didn't mind the new mosque.
"I'm happy there will be a parking lot, because the streets get so crowded when people from all the churches park in front of houses," said Zahida Niazmand, 64.
"God is everyone's God," she said.