$1.8 million mosque rising at Islamic Center in west Modesto

snowicki@modbee.comFebruary 12, 2014 

  • AT A GLANCE

    WHAT: Islamic Center of Modesto

    WHERE: 1445 Carpenter Road

    DAILY PRAYERS: Five times daily: dawn, noon, midafternoon, sunset and night

    INFO: (209) 576-8149; www.icomodesto.com

— The two minarets sit like stubs now, but will look exotic once they’re erected on top of the new building at the Islamic Center of Modesto in west Modesto. To Imam Ahmad Kayello, they are exciting symbols of the future, topping a beautiful mosque where his community can grow, worship and enjoy fellowship, and where non-Muslims can learn more about Islam, a religion often vilified in the West.

The long-awaited project, an 18,000-square-foot, $1.8 million two-story building, broke ground last year, six years after it had received unanimous approval from the Stanislaus County Planning Commission. Kayello said the purchase of additional land behind the current facility at 1445 Carpenter Road and a change in the plans and design delayed the project.

Among other changes, he said, the community decided to complete the entire project rather than build it in phases.

“When it was first announced, we were trying to expand the buildings we have now,” Kayello said. “Then we bought the land behind us. We thought, instead of expanding for five or 10 years, why not build a mosque to exist for 40 or 50 years? We had to take a break and do the plans again and take them to the city, back and forth and back and forth. We had to find the right contractor, the one who built mosques for Tracy, Stockton and Manteca.”

And, he said, the community plans to pay for the project in full, so he spends most weekends traveling to Muslim communities in other cities, seeking donations. It’s been a time-consuming process.

When finished, the building with gracefully arched windows and entryways will include a prayer area for men, one for women, a social hall, a library, multipurpose rooms, an office and bathrooms that will include space for Islam’s ritual washings. The building is turned slightly so it faces northeast; that ensures that when community members pray, they will face toward Mecca, Islam’s holiest city, Kayello said.

The building will replace the separate, rather dilapidated buildings that make up the current mosque. Those will be torn down and the space used for parking when the new mosque is complete, hopefully late this year, Kayello said.

When the center first opened in 1980, he said, there were about 40 people in the community with only one building.

“Now we have 150 people praying inside and 100 people praying outside,” he said. “The community is increasing.”

There are about 400 men, women and children who belong to the center, Kayello said. The new building will hold about 700.

“Because the (current) mosque is not well designed – the bathrooms are in one place and the prayer is in another place – we are just surviving now,” Kayello said. “The new building will open the people’s eyes and hearts toward it. I can see now the excitement of our Muslim community and our Modesto community about the building.

“It’s going to be such a beautiful building. It’s like when the (St. Stanislaus Catholic) church was being built on Maze Boulevard. Everyone was talking about it. This (mosque) is by itself really something you want to stop by and see.”

Kayello hopes the building will serve not only his community’s needs, but serve for outreach to the public as well.

“That’s my dream: When people come to visit the mosque, they feel like they are entering a mosque where God’s name is remembered and praised,” Kayello said. “We also want to do open houses to our community, to share about what Islam is. We are hoping to have a free clinic on some weekends to check, for example, diabetes and common illnesses. And we hope that this place will better accommodate our youth. That way, Muslims will feel like they have a home that will fit them all.”

Bee staff writer Sue Nowicki can be reached at snowicki@modbee.com or (209) 578-2012.

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