A new Fort Collins Islamic Center broke ground Saturday to the thunderous applause of about 200 local Muslims and the blessings of community members alike.
â€œOur church has been looking forward to having them as a neighbor,â€ said Rev. Hal Chorpenning, the senior minister at Plymouth Congregational Church positioned less than one block away from the centerâ€™s location on Prospect Road between Shields and Whitcomb streets. â€œ â€¦ I welcome them warmly to the neighborhood.â€
The facilities will replace the cityâ€™s current Islamic Center situated near the CSU campusâ€™ northeast corner on Peterson Street, which will likely become a daycare center or other source of revenue for the new center. Jared Woodrow, president of the universityâ€™s Muslim Student Association, said the areaâ€™s Islamic community had outgrown their decades-old mosque and decided to construct a new one with additional features.
Upon final completion, it will include a prayer hall, library, school, gym and meeting rooms for local Muslims and interested community members.
â€œYou can be there all day,â€ Woodrow said.
According to those interviewed, the reactions non-Muslim Fort Collins residents have had to the centerâ€™s construction have been generally positive.
â€œAs a whole, Iâ€™ve been very pleased with the reaction and the reception that weâ€™ve gotten here in Fort Collins,â€ said Shakir Muhammad, a local engineer and active participant at the center.
Woodrow explained that all but one city official approved of the facilityâ€™s construction. Muhammad pointed out that State Representative John Kefalas (D-52), who is part of the cityâ€™s delegation to the state legislature, wrote a letter in support of the new Islamic Center.
â€œFort Collins is a community that prides itself on being inclusive, and this is a religion that many people subscribe to,â€ Kefalas said. â€œ â€¦ There are students that come (to CSU) from countries in the Middle East, and I think that this is just another way to be welcoming and to be inclusive.â€
But Fort Collins Jihad, a self-described awareness organization that regards the communityâ€™s Islamic Center as dangerously radical, sees the new facilitiesâ€™ construction as a victory for extremist Muslims and a detriment to the city.
Muhammad is aware of FCJ.
â€œItâ€™s not a group. Itâ€™s just one person with a website,â€ he said. â€œHis (the website creator) claims are not very factual â€¦ â€
Requests for comments from FCJ were not returned.
Despite being in the good graces of the overwhelming majority of the city, fundraising for the project has been difficult, Woodrow said. He explained that most of the centerâ€™s attendees are visiting CSU scholars from foreign nations who have little incentive to donate money to a facility theyâ€™re only going to use for three years.
â€œ â€¦ A lot of the people donâ€™t have an investment into this city,â€ he said.
To compensate, Fort Collins Muslims have gone city-to-city across Colorado to stop at various mosques and ask those in attendance for financial donations to pay for the new centerâ€™s construction.
And while the fundraising process still has yet to be completed, those in charge of the project have insisted on not sacrificing principles to satisfy financial needs. The center rejected a donation from the son of Saudi Arabiaâ€™s treasurer, wanting to avoid questionable associations, Woodrow said.
The new facilityâ€™s construction will take place in two phases. The first involves the creation of a prayer hall, library and meeting rooms and is scheduled to be completed by December. The second will add on a school and a gym when enough funds are raised.
Senior Reporter Andrew Carrera can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to donate to the new Islamic Center?
Visit icfc.org and download a donation form, then mail it and your contribution to:
New Masjid Project
Islamic Center of Fort Collins
P.O. Box 273331
Fort Collins, CO 80527-3331