The Islamic Center of Long Island’s long-awaited expansion project has finally become a reality.
The Westbury mosque, the oldest on the Island, will undergo a $4 million facelift over the next severals years, a necessary step for the house of worship, its members say, after outgrowing the original building since it first opened its doors more than 30 years ago.
“We’ve been waiting for this day for a long time,” ICLI chairman, Habeeb Ahmed, told the congregation Friday in front of a recently completed $1 million parking lot that has helped ease congestion in the neighborhood.
Joining the mosque’s board for the groundbreaking ceremony were dozens of worshipers, religious leaders from other faiths and about a half-dozen local officials who have assisted in the expansion project by educating the surrounding community, including the village’s mayor, Peter Cavallaro, who was praised for his efforts during the process.
The plan calls for more classrooms to support the growing number of Muslim families moving into the community, a recreation area, an interfaith center and a space for seniors—or “medicare beneficiaries,” as Dr. Faroque Khan, a member of ICLI’s board of trustees, put it.
Khan, who laid out the blueprint for the mosque at his own home three decades ago, said the goal of the project was to turn the mosque into a hub for the entire community—not only Muslims.
“We are putting down a marker and establishing our roots in Nassau County as a very vibrant, progressive Muslim community,” Khan told crowd.
The ICLI’s congregation has seen dramatic growth over the years and has become “a model for the entire country,” Khan added.
Rev. Mark Lukens of the Interfaith Alliance of Long Island, a group of leaders from many different religions, agrees.
“Once again, the ICLI is leading the way in promoting understanding and goodwill between people of faith here on our island,” he said. “And once again, it’s demonstrating by its example that the teachings of Islam, like those of all the world’s great religions, call the faithful to reach out to their neighbors and to fulfill God’s will that we learn from and about one another so that we can live together in harmony and respect.”
Cavallaro, the village mayor, put the ICLI’s expansion into the larger social context.
“You read everyday in the newspaper and see on the TV everyday—even today if you go home—really negative stuff that would make people of faith like yourselves lose faith in humanity and in man’s ability, I think, to get along with each other,” he said. “But I think this mosque, the way it stands today…in addition to the the expansion project, is really a testament that people of goodwill can still get along and come up with solutions that makes sense for everybody and live in peace.”
This is the mosque’s second groundbreaking celebration in as many years.
Back in July 2011, they gathered to highlight the expansion of a parking lot to relieve traffic concerns of neighbors in the area.