WALLINGFORD — Members of the Islamic Center of Wallingford are celebrating the mosque’s reopening in a new location after nearly 10 years of searching for a new site.
Worshipers welcomed guests during a community dinner Saturday in the mosque at 164 S. Whittlesey Ave., formerly the Ward Street Church of Christ. The Ward Street Church of Christ moved to the former home of Temple B'Nai Abraham at 127 E. Main St. in Meriden in December.
“It is a blessing from God. We get our own building now,” said event organizer Mohammad Taroua.
In 2008, the year before the mosque moved into its former rented space at 950 Yale Ave., a proposal was made by Tariq Farid to build a mosque at 105 and 109 Leigus Road. Residents were vocal in the opposition to the proposal, protesting at meetings with signs that read “No Mosque on Leigus” and citing traffic concerns. After months of meetings, the Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously voted down the proposal.
Members have been searching for a more permanent location since then. When they discovered that the church was for sale in March, fundraising began for purchase and renovations of the building.
“We are so proud,” Taroua said. “It’s been a long journey and we struggled to get (the building) and it’s a blessing from Allah. We finally get the help from leaders of the community.”
Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. attended the event Saturday and spoke with religious leaders about the impact the Islamic center has made on the community.
“It’s a real plus for Wallingford,” Dickinson said. “We need very active and involved religious institutions in town. That’s where good values are learned.”
Farah Salam, of the Islamic center, said the previous location wasn’t large enough for gatherings, such as community dinners. She said often both the male and female worship areas would overflow to the point that people would have to leave.
“It was always a little awkward because there wasn’t enough space to hold everyone,” Salam said.
Salam said there has been a significant Muslim population in Wallingford since the late 1990s but not enough space for them to worship. She said members would sometimes appear only on certain days of prayer to avoid overcrowding.
In the new location, Salam said there’s more space, but also the need for changes in order to transition the church into a mosque.
Carpets were installed and members removed the seating and a baptism tub. Salam said minimal renovations have been completed until additional fundraising to complete the renovation.
“Now that we have this place, it’s established and we can make it our own,” Salam said.