OREM — Saturday, members of the Muslim community in Utah County broke ground for the area's first Islamic mosque — despite being about $250,000 short of the funds needed to complete the building.
“This is very important to us,” Dr. Ruhul Kuddus, associate professor of biology at UVU and treasurer of the Utah Valley Islamic Center, told the Deseret News. “For four years we have been working very hard to raise the money we need for our own mosque, and we have raised about $450,000. ... Our concern is that our construction permit will lapse this year, and we want to start construction before that happens. So we’re going to go ahead and start and have faith that the rest of the money will come.”
At this point, money may seem to be the last concern. Utah Valley Muslims have fought an uphill battle to bring a mosque to the county — mirroring controversies seen in other parts of the country as plans for mosques and Muslim community centers have been announced.
While Kuddus said the Orem City Council and local residents have been friendly and supportive, "there is a group of people who ... call us ‘terrorists’ and who do not want us to build a mosque. They fought against our permit — we heard them say many hateful things. We don’t want to go through that fight again,” he told the Deseret News.
In the meantime, the group continues to raise funds — a difficult task locally, since there are only 15-20 Muslim families in Utah County and about 500 Muslim students at Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University.
Though an estimated 25,000 Muslims live in Utah, most of them are along the Wasatch Front. Even among those numbers, fundraising doesn't always come easy.
In 2010 the Utah Islamic Center worked to earn the money for a mosque and school in the south Salt Lake Valley, raising about $300,000 of the $600,000-$900,000 needed for the center through community efforts.
But Utah County Muslims aren't alone in their efforts. Other religious groups and individuals in the community "have been very generous in their support of the project," according to the Deseret News, and "the project changed significantly because of those donations," expanding from a small school and a number of storefronts into a complete mosque.
“Utah Valley is a very good place to live,” Kuddus said. “The people are very friendly and supportive. I believe they will help us come up with the money we need.”
Groundbreaking ceremonies were held June 22 at the future mosque's construction site, 935 S. State Street in Orem.