Like many Germantown Muslims, 55-year-old Alusine Sesay’s religious routine is cobbled together. He attends Friday prayers in Gaithersburg, daily morning prayers at Iman Learning School, and in Ramadan he breaks his fast at the Boys & Girls Club in Germantown.
Having lived in the Germantown area for more than 23 years, Sessay is one of hundreds of area Muslims who have eagerly awaited construction of a central place to worship. Now it appears the Islamic Society of Germantown (ISG) can go forward with building a $1.2 million mosque that has been in the works for 14 years.
ISG received preliminary site approval at a Montgomery County Planning Department hearing in July, and construction may begin by the end of 2012.
“We are very much encouraged by this move and excited for the developments to come — it’s been a long time coming,” ISG Imam Ammar Najjar said.
Located on 19825 Blunt Road, ISG is working on a plat application. Once approved, ISG will submit building permits for consideration, a process that could take a few months, said Planning Department Planner Coordinator Richard Weaver.
Fulfilling a need
The vision for the mosque sprouted in 1998 when a handful of Germantown Muslims sought to create a unifying religious, educational and recreational centerpiece for Germantown Muslims.
Currently, religious services are scattered throughout the area. Friday prayers, which are attended by more than 150 people, are offered at two locations in Germantown and Gaithersburg, daily morning and night prayers are at Iman Learning School, with Sunday school classes are offered at Fox Chapel School.
The closest mosque — the Islamic Center of Maryland — is a 24-minute drive from the heart of Germantown.
“If you came to Eid prayers last Sunday, you would have seen that we’ve had to add extra prayer mats and turn away people,” Sesay said. “That alone indicates that we need this and we stand by our leaders to push this initiative.”
Slow road to construction
Progress toward building a Mosque in Germantown has been slow.
After more than five years of finding additional parking spaces and securing more than $290,000 in funds for the project, ISG had to start from square one in 2011 when new county requirements called for a redesign of ISG's site plan, Najjar said.
Having to tweak stormwater management, forest conservation plans, and road frontage systems, including fire and rescue access, caused further delays.
“[It] took a bit longer than we would have liked but the issues were somewhat difficult to address because they were all intertwined,” Weaver said.
Worth the wait
The new building — accented with sandy brown domes, gentle arches, and high ceilings — will contain three multi-purpose floors. The basement, tailored for food and children-oriented events, contains a commercial kitchen, dining, and storage areas, Najjar said.
The first floor, primarily for men, will have offices, meeting rooms, and a men’s prayer hall, while the second floor, primarily for women, will have a prayer hall, a workout room, and four classrooms, Najjar said.
Najjar said that the community has been and will continue to be a tremendous source of support.
“We may not have a structural foundation in place,” Najjar said, “but our community foundation is here and that’s what will keep us going.”