By Mark Quick
Houston – July 10, 2012
The Islamic Circle of North American Houston chapter has purchased 10 acres in the Fairfield area with plans to build a Muslim worship and community center.
The chapter, which bought the land at 19025 Wilks Drive near Mueschke Road, hopes to build a Masjid, which is space for worship and prayer, a support center for those entering the faith, celebrations center for observing Muslim holidays, Interfaith Islamic Learning Foundation Center to encourage interfaith dialogue, a youth center and facilities to support outreach and human services programs
The Islamic Circle of North America was founded in 1968 and is headquartered in Jamaica, NY.
Information about the Houston chapter may be found at www.icnahouston.org.
Ilyas Choudry, a member of the chapter’s building committee, said a temporary structure to serve as the initial Masjid is going up on site.
The remaining structures will be built in phases, the details of which are still being worked out.
“Our plans and hopes for this center include promoting open dialogue and interfaith discussion. Our goals are to provide a place for the worship of God, to learn how to bring up families in the right way and to teach how God wants us to interact with one another. Over a period of time people will find the center is a good thing for society,” he said.
He touted humanitarian efforts undertaken by ICNA–Houston during hurricane Ike as an example of the group’s desire to serve the community.
The organization received a $2.5 million FEMA grant at that time, according to Choudry. “We worked a lot in the Galveston community,” he said.
The Pakistani born Choudry first immigrated to Canada and then to Houston in 1996 where he worked as an engineer for the Houston-Galveston Area Council for 14 years.
He currently works for the humanitarian organization Helping Hand for Relief and Development and volunteers for ICNA-Houston.
“Muslims have been here for a long time in the U.S., even from the beginning. Once the center is open, we will invite people to come and see the work. We plan to be very open,” he said.
Choudry said he understands the concerns that sometimes arise among residents when a new Muslim center comes to a community, in light of world events and acts of terror perpetrated in the name of Islam.
He personally denounces such activity and said, “People should not fear. This will be a place to worship God,” he said.
Choudry noted that more and more Muslims are moving to the Fairfield, Cypress and Tomball area and a new Muslim support program and classes already meet in the Barker-Cypress and FM 529 area.
In August 2010, Muslims made up 1.2 percent of the Houston population – double the national average.
Houston ranked No. 9 on the list of U.S. cities with the largest Muslim populations. Dallas ranked No. 22.
The Houston area, at the time, had 80 Islamic centers and 50 halal restaurants.
Tomball Area Chamber of Commerce president Bruce Hillegiest said the arrival of the center highlights the region’s growing diversity.
“This is proof positive of the Houston region being the most diverse in the United States and really the face of what our nation will look like in the near future,” Hillegeist said.
He noted that statistics he has seen indicate the birth rate among Anglos is the lowest in the nation while Asian, Mexican and African American birth rates continue to climb.
“We are going to see more colors and mixes of races and religions in our community,” Hillegiest added.
Reports by the Rice University Kinder Institute for Urban Research relate its findings that the 10-county Houston region is the most diverse in the country.
A 2012 study titled “Houston Region Grows More Racially/Ethnically Diverse with Small Declines in Segregation” notes the following: “As of 2010, the Houston metropolitan area is the most racially/ethnically diverse large metropolitan area in the nation, narrowly surpassing the New York metropolitan area.”
The report goes on to detail that “the Anglo population represents a declining share of the Houston metropolitan area.
In 1990, Anglos were more than half the population (57.9 percent), but by 2000 they decreased to slightly less than half the total population (48.2 percent), and by 2010 they were only 39.7 percent of the metropolitan population.”
According to the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies’ 2010 U.S. Religion Census, there are 157,820 Muslim adherents in the Houston metropolitan area.
Mark Quick is a freelance writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Article Courtesy: Houston Chronicle