Donations help repair mosque

With a little help from the Yale Muslim Students Association, the Masjid Al-Islam mosque managed to put a new roof on its house of prayer just in time for Ramadan.

The mosque, located in the Dwight neighborhood, cost approximately $19,000 to repair, almost half of which was borrowed from the mosque’s general fund. Masjid Al-Islam’s board president, Jimmy Jones DIV ’81, said he was able to raise 40 percent of the remaining funds from the approximately 300 families that regularly use the mosque within the first two weeks. But Jones said donations have since tapered off.

“We try to be self-reliant, but we are a working-class community, so it is a tough goal,” Jones said.

Jones said time has taken its toll on the mosque, which urgently needed the repairs in order to continue to serve as a place of worship for the New Haven Muslim Community.

“There was grass growing on the old roof and water was leaking in, causing damages,” he said.

Due to considerable community growth, the mosque, founded in 1987, moved to its current home at 624 George St. in 1995. The house the mosque occupies was purchased in February 1995 for $40,000, according to a press release issued by Masjid Al-Islam’s treasurer. Darul Quran, the mosque’s educational center, shares the same location and will also benefit from the recent repairs.

Although Yale’s Muslim Students Association has no plans to raise money for the roof, it has helped publicize the issue on campus. Since the MSA has its own prayer room on campus, most of the Elis that frequent Masjid Al-Islam on a regular basis are graduate students or students at the Yale Medical School.

But MSA president Altaf Saadi ’07 said the Yale group works with the mosque in other ways. They cooperate to organize holiday prayers and events throughout the year and are currently trying to encourage community service amongst the association’s members, Saadi said.

In order to achieve that end, the organization is expanding a program that brings local Muslim teenagers to campus to experience what it would be like to be a Muslim student at Yale.

“It makes the kids happy to see Muslims at Yale,” Saadi said.

The association has also sent volunteers to the mosque-sponsored community cleanups in the Dwight neighborhood.

The mosque has made a conscious effort in the past few years to help clean up the surrounding streets. They have cooperated with New Haven’s Livable City Initiative as well as St. Raphael’s Hospital, where they hold block watch meetings, Jones said.

“The mosque has been very active in starting a block watch,” St. Raphael’s Community and Government Relations Director Martha Judd said.

Members of the mosque now also own an entire block of New Haven that used to be boarded up, Jones said. He estimated that security has increased in the neighborhood due to the fact that Muslims patrol the streets five times a day on their way to prayer.

“[The neighborhood] does look much better,” said Tracy Claxton, the Dwight neighborhood specialist for the Livable City Initiative.

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