COMMUNITY MOSQUE WINSTON SALEM, NC
In May 1980, members of the Institute for Islamic Involvement secured a facility for the collective worship of its members, and the small pre-existing Muslim community in the city of Winston-Salem, NC. The facility, the Bruce Building, was located at 216 East Sixth Street on the third floor of a near-abandoned historic former medical office building adjacent to the city’s downtown.
The Community Mosque of Winston-Salem was formally established September 1984. It evolved out of the organizational efforts of the Institute for Islamic Involvement, Inc., an Islamic membership organization dedicated to demonstrating an assertive Muslim involvement in the life of the general community. Several past members of the Washington, DC-based Islamic Party in North America, primarily Ibrahim Hanif, Jamal Abdullah, Salih Abdul Latif, and Khalid Abdul Fattah Griggs, labored to develop the ideological framework, organizational structure, and program of action for the Institute for Islamic Involvement.
Even though the building was not formally designated as a mosque, daily prayers, Salatul Jumah, weddings, domestic and social counseling and other functions generally associated with a mosque were conducted in space occupied by the Institute for Islamic Involvement. For the first years of its existence, beginning in February 1980, new Muslims constituted the majority of the organization’s local working members. Branches of the Institute for Islamic Involvement were established in Conley, GA, Baltimore, MD, and a Latino branch, Instituto Involvimiento Islamico in El Barrio (Spanish Harlem, NY).
The Sixth Street location of the Institute for Islamic Involvement in Winston-Salem served as the national headquarters for the group. One of the earliest projects of the Institute was the establishment of the Community Academy, its present formation being the Community Mosque Academy.
As the number of new and immigrant Muslims in the area increased, the need to encompass the Sixth Street activities with a formally established mosque increased. On September 24, 1984, the Community Mosque of Winston-Salem was officially chartered with the state of North Carolina as a non-profit religious corporation. While the Institute remained an active entity by sponsoring events such as three national Malcolm X Conferences (1987, 1988, 1989), and Muslim Women Conferences/Retreats (1989 to present), the Community Mosque of Winston-Salem gradually became the primary entity through which the local Muslim community channeled their collective Islamic affairs.
Space in the Sixth Street location became more constrained with neighboring businesses and residences being razed through urban renewal. A change of venue for the mosque became inevitable. Members of the mosque secured a lease on May 1, 1987 on a five-room house at 1326 East Third Street. The property was located on the corner of a busy intersection a short distance from Winston-Salem State University, Salem College, and downtown Winston-Salem.
While the leased house provided more usable space for the mosque activities, problems associated with the slowly increasing illicit drug traffic in the surrounding neighborhood presented a different kind of challenge for the community. Members of the mosque formed a security team for the purpose of protecting mosque properties and defending mosque members, especially the women and children, from harassment and abuse from the illegal drug trade. Shortly after its formation, the mosque security team began to engage in intense spiritual and physical training.
Abandoned properties in the neighborhood of the mosque became havens for drug users and dealers. Mosque security team members physically removed users and dealers from these properties, contacted owners of the houses, and with their consent, helped to board up the facilities. As the news of the relative success of its clean up operations began to spread, the mosque security team was called upon to assist other drug-infested neighborhoods in removing unwanted criminal elements.
The Community Mosque sponsored weekly free clothing and food giveaways starting in 1990 followed by monthly free health clinics. Members of the mosque have been active in community issues involving injustice especially in arguably the most controversial case in the city’s history, the Darryl Hunt case. Community Access Television began broadcasting in Winston-Salem in 1994. Except for the station’s first 13-week season, the Community Mosque has, without interruption, produced a weekly show, Vision: The Voice of Islam in the Triad. The 30-minute live program utilizes an interview format with on-the-air telephone calls.
In August 1993, the absentee owner of the mosque property decided to liquidate her holdings in Winston-Salem. An agreement was reached with the owner for the mosque to purchase the house in five interest-free monthly payments of $5,000. An intense successful regional fundraising campaign was waged. Muslim communities in West Virginia and Valdese, Hickory, and Morganton, North Carolina were particularly helpful in this regard.
After approximately 10 years in the Third Street house, the mosque again sought a more physically accommodating facility. A building that was once used as a restaurant was identified for purchase. The most recent use for the building, prior to the purchase by the mosque, was that of an illegal gambling facility. One mosque member, Salman Azhar, collected $110,000 from various sources. This amount was paid to the owner for the purchase of the building in May 1997. Azhar loaned the purchase price to the mosque, interest free. The mosque experienced significant growth at the 1011 Waughtown Street location. The south side of Winston-Salem is the most racially and culturally diverse area in the city with a high concentration of Latinos, African Americans, and Whites.
September 2002 was the date in which the members of the Community Mosque purchased a former church located at 1419 Waughtown Street. The property, in desperate need of repairs yet valued at $500,000, was being foreclosed thereby reducing the purchase price to $145,000. The interest-free financing for the 1419 Waughtown Street location was the most challenging experience that the mosque had ever undertaken. David Cooper, a local realtor, arranged for creative financing of the building in addition to the generous donations and loans of individual members of the Community Mosque such as Tariq and Kamran Tariq. Nazir Chaudhry, and many others. Over $75,000 has been spent in the renovation and repair of the mosque. The current location is a two-story facility with a multi-purpose room in the back of the main building. Ample on-site parking is available along with playground provisions for the children.