A Call to Prayer, a Long Quest Fulfilled

June 26, 2009

Author: Michael Paulson

Source: The Boston Globe


&amAt midday today, a local Muslim will clamber 185 feet up a ladder inside the narrow minaret atop the domed brick mosque and recite Islam’s haunting call to prayer, starting with the words, “Allahu akbar,’’ Arabic for p;ldquo;God is great.’’

The chant will mark the ceremonial opening of one of the most disputed projects in Boston’s long history of prominent religious edifices, a celebration that follows 20 years of controversy, litigation, and financial challenges.

Critics of the $15.6 million mosque in Roxbury Crossing continue to assert that it is backed by extremists and will become a breeding ground for hatred.

But for many local Muslims, the criticisms are biased and racist, the controversy a tragic distraction from what they view as a joyful moment. They have succeeded, they said, in constructing a landmark facility that heralds their presence in a city founded by people fleeing religious persecution.

“This is the culmination of 20 years of the Muslim community’s aspirations and efforts in the face of various challenges,’’ said Bilal Kaleem, 29, an MIT-trained computer scientist who serves as executive director of the Muslim American Society’s Boston chapter, which is overseeing the new mosque. “It is a symbol of the Muslim community’s growth and development and a triumph of pluralism.’’