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New Dearborn mosque to be the nation's largest

Published January 7, 2004

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) — The Islamic Center of America will
complete its new $12 million mosque this summer, a centerpiece in
what members say will become the largest Arab American religious
and cultural facility in North America.

“Our community has grown nearly tenfold since the
beginning of the original Islamic Center,” said Dan Mekled,
the technology administrator for the 3,000-member center.

“We’ve planned to move and fit the community with a
larger building.” He said the original 17,000-square-foot
center, which the Islamic Center plans to sell, was projected to
last 30 years and made it to 40.

In addition to the new mosque, the center’s
120,000-square-foot complex will feature an auditorium, library and
community center.

It also will retain the Muslim American Youth Academy, which
opened with 35 students in 1997 at the site.

About 170 students now are enrolled in kindergarten through
fifth grade.

The new mosque will provide additional space as well as
heightened exposure from its new location, but officials said they
still expect some overcrowding.

“Like any other religion, you get a big holiday and you
can never dream of building enough room (to accommodate
everyone),” said Ed Bedoun, chairman of the group’s
construction committee.

At least 300,000 people of Middle Eastern descent are estimated
to live in the Detroit area. Nearly 30,000, or 30 percent, of
Dearborn’s population claimed Arab ancestry in the latest
census.

The Islamic Center’s complex is one of several projects
underway designed to meet the needs of southeast Michigan’s
growing Arab American community.

A $12.8 million Arab American National Museum, the first of its
kind, also is slated to open in Dearborn in October.

Projects like the new mosque “will lead to the greater
understanding (of cultures) that we all strive for,” said
Imad Hamad, director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination
Committee of Michigan.