Daily Southtown: Orland Park's Mosque Begins to Take Shape
Orland Park's controversial mosque is rising out of the dark mud of its site along 104th Avenue. More than three months after the developer broke ground, the foundation has been placed and steel bars are being installed for the walls of the Orland Park Prayer Center.
"It really does feel great," mosque backer and spokesman Malik Ali said. "It's awesome. The project is right on schedule and moving full speed ahead."
Mosque officials still expect it to be open by the holy month of Ramadan, which begins in early October.
The mosque is likely to draw a congregation from the growing Muslim community in Orland Park and surrounding towns. Many local Muslims will welcome the convenience of no longer having to make the 20-minute drive to the mosque in Bridgeview for services, according to the Orland Park mosque organizers.
Muslims throughout the region and the nation have been watching the development of the mosque, said Yaser Tabara, executive director of the Council of American Islamic Relations - Chicago.
He said Chicago-area Muslims intently followed the controversy that swelled around the mosque proposal, including anti-mosque petition drives and hundreds of residents packing village board meetings to oppose the mosque.
Tabara said seeing the mosque finally take shape is a gratifying experience for a religious community that has often felt under siege since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"The actual construction could be a metaphor that the walls of our confidence are being built as the mosque is being built," he said.
But until the mosque is open, the controversy and harsh words it stirred remain a fresh memory, Tabara said.
"There is still a lot of fear and apprehension that it took a long and bitter fight to put ourselves on the map over there," he said. "It's kind of a mixed feeling."
The three-floor, 22,000-square-foot building is being constructed to resemble the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, the third holiest site for Muslims after Mecca and Medina.
The mosque organizers have joined with the Southwest Interfaith Team, a regional interfaith group formed to promote understanding among religions.
Ali said the mosque will host several outreach programs to help ease some of the community tensions.
"Once it's up, I'm going to prove to everybody who had any questions or concerns that they were wrong," he said. "We'll be open to everyone."
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