Photo Essay of Islamic Center of Maryland’s Ground Breaking
The scene at the Islamic Center of Maryland on a very bright and sunny May 12, 2012 was akin to Eid. Cars were parked in every available (and unavailable!) spot, and the Muslim Link estimates there were around 1,000 people gathered outside for a ground breaking for a new Islamic center over a decade in waiting. A tent with hundreds of chairs was set-up, with special guests and honorees from the community as well as elected officials seated in the first rows. Board of Trustees member Sayed Naved (far right) served as the master of ceremonies for the roughly two hour program. All photos by Muslim Link staff.
Hundreds of plastic toy shovels were distributed to children before the program; ICM had the youth break the ground to send a message to them and to the community that the youth are the future of ICM.
ICM Trustee Nadeem Ahmad (center foreground) chairs the Engineering and Construction committee and presented an overview of the land development and construction process. The Master Plan was approved by Montgomery County in 1999 and involves three main buildings – a masjid, a multipurpose building, and a school. Phase 1 is now underway and will result in construction of the main building – the largest of the three at about 40,000 square feet and containing a gymnasium, kitchen, eating area, and classrooms. Ahmad called up the entire committee to the stage including the engineering and architectural firms hired to do the work. “Now I’ve introduced all the team members to you,” he told the crowd, “so you know who to blame if things go wrong and not me,” he said to laughter. “Now we need just one thing … your prayers,” added Ahmad.
The ICM ground breaking was a major community event, and entire families took part, from toddlers to grand parents. This young ground breaker got a good view of the action on top of his father's shoulders. The area behind the current prayer hall is now cordoned off due to the land work and construction.
The Mayor of Gaithersburg Sidney Katz greets ICM Imam Jamil Dasti. All guests were given symbolic yellow “hard hat” sun visors with the ICM logo on the rims. Mayor Katz addressed the audience with “salam” and then said how much he appreciated the Muslim community in his city. “Your roots started in a city facility [Casey Community Center]” he said, thanking the Muslims for “what you do everyday.” On the right is County Executive Ike Leggett, who related his memories of being on the County Council when some were opposed to allowing a masjid to start on the property once used as a nursery and green house. “But you stood firm … this mosque is an enlightenment for our county and its here to stay,” said Leggett to applause. Council Member George Leventhal (not pictured) congratulated the community on its achievements. “I know Muslims are taught to be modest and not exhibit pride, so let me brag for you … look what you have achieved !” he said to loud applause.
Once all the children were finished breaking ground with their symbolic plastic shovels, some of the notable guests and community members took their opportunity to grab a bit of history. From right, Samira Hussein, Sayed Naved, Imam Jamil Dasti, County Executive Ike Leggett, and Mayor Sidney Katz.
ICM has put a new focus on youth over the last several years, bringing in younger board members and khateebs. This emphasis on youth was clearly evident in ICM’s decision to have children be the first ones to break ground. Even babies took part in the symbolic digging, with parents snapping photos and videos to capture the special moment.
Despite the emphasis on youth, senior members were named and appreciated by program organizers, and the work and achievements of previous administrations and committees was highlighted. Muhammad Aslam (far right), the ICM Office Administrator and one of the original signatories on the property, received the loudest applause and takbeers of the day.