Islamic Center of Charlotte

This profile was last updated in 2003

Activities and Schedule

The center is open for people to come and offer the six traditional prayers: Fajr, Shuruq, Dhor, Asr, Maghrib, and Isha. All of the times during which Muslims should offer these prayers are published on the Islamic Center website and given out in pamphlets. The men of the community offer their prayers on Friday nights. The adult women and young boys have special meetings on Saturday afternoons. Children can attend classes on Sunday mornings. These classes function like Sunday school.

The students of the school follow a curriculum of both standard academics regulated by educational board guidelines, and of Arabic studies in the Qu’ran and Islam. There is an assembly each morning. Everyday at about mid-morning, the students have snacks. Lunch is their second break from classes. Every afternoon, the Imam comes to pray with the children and to talk to them about Islamic values and traditions from the Qu’ran and the Hadith. The school times are the following:

– Assembly: 8:15 A.M.

– Classes: 8:30 A.M.

– School Ends: 3:15 P.M.

– Friday Dismissal: 12:00 NOON

– Ramadan Timings: 8:30 A.M.-2:00 P.M.

History

The Muslim immigrant community in Charlotte needed a place to worship where they could gather together and share their faith. They began as a community of 27 people who offered prayers in a small apartment. The small apartment that had been rented solely for worship was too small for the growing population to gather. In 1993, nine acres of land were purchased. A small Christian church building on the property was converted into their new mosque, or masjid.

The members of the community wished for a school to educate their children in Islamic religious traditions. A judicial body from the center, called the Shura, took on the job of finding a way to open a school for this purpose. After 3-4 years they received permission from the state to open the school. Because the school was private and affiliated with a religion, federal grants were very limited. Through donations from the community, they had been able to purchase the 9 acres which the center now calls its home, but funds were still too limited to begin construction on new facilities or to expand on the current one. Over time, they were able to open the school for pre-kindergarten through third grade. Thirty-two students attended the school. New grades were added until the school reached its maximum capacity of 56 students. Ms. Raja, Principal of Charlotte Islamic School, anticipates the number to be closer to 100 students for fall 2003, provided they are able to expand. The temporary center where the school and mosque are both housed is very small. The main challenge at this time is finding the money to either expand the temporary building so that more grades and students can be added to the school, or to start construction on a new mosque and school.

Since the tragedy of September 11, 2001, there have been some challenges for those of the Muslim faith. Ms. Raja did not dwell on the many obstacles that faced this particular community. She did mention a few threatening phone calls. They have also had to have policemen come to the center after the attacks to ensure their safety. But, on the flip side of these hardships, she spoke of understanding in the surrounding community. For example, some community members have come to the school’s events and dinners. The center is surrounded by a rather picturesque subdivision, and Ms. Raja stated that there have been no problems from the people who live there. She also said that there has been some effort on the part of the center to educate the community about their traditions and their non-hostile environment. The community sent out pamphlets and brochures about their faith and their traditions.

Ms. Raja believes that the school has played an influential role in “bridging the gaps” in the community. Through PTO parties, Book Fair dinners, fundraisers, and dinners specifically for overcoming differences, the school has opened and worked toward welding the non-Muslim and Muslim communities together to form a pluralistic society that is understanding of diversity. People from the community are welcome at these events.

Demographics

The population at the center and school is diverse, with white, black, and Native Americans, and many people from countries like Malaysia, Somalia, India, Pakistan, and other Arabic countries.
English and Arabic, considered a foreign language by state curriculum standards, are taught to the students of the school.

Description

The center is very small and was converted to a Muslim mosque and school from a Christian church. The main room where the people worship is 600 to 800 square feet. It is mostly bare with a small platform in one corner from which the Imam can speak when there are a lot of people worshipping. There are diagonal strips of tape covering the plush carpet so that the people know which way to face as they offer their prayers. Mecca is northeast of the center. There is also a small corner in which women can worship. They are usually in an adjacent room, but if there are a lot of women, then a curtain is drawn across one of the corners of the room. The women can sit there. There are also separate entrances for the women and the men.
Posters made by the children decorate the short hallway. On one side there are descriptions of the hajj to Mecca with pictures drawn by the children. On the other side are pictures of trees made by the children. As one walks down the hallway, kindergartners recite their ABC’s. In another section, older children learn how to read and write in Arabic.

Membership and Community Size

There are approximately 7000 Muslims in the Charlotte area. The Islamic Center of Charlotte is considered the central of three mosques located in Charlotte, and it has the largest population. It is so large, in fact, that there have been plans for some time to expand their building or to build a new center entirely.

Ethnic Composition

There is much diversity within the community of the Islamic Center of Charlotte and the school. Immigrants from different countries like India, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, Sudan, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Guyana, Pakistan, Somalia, Malaysia, Ethiopia, and also Native Americans, white and black Americans attend the center and school.

Food

The school sold a cookbook with traditional recipes during the second year that the school was open. This fundraiser was not as successful as anticipated. Ms. Raja commented that it is hard to sell a cookbook with their traditional recipes because the Muslims in the community already know the recipes, and the surrounding non-Muslims are not used to eating their traditional halal foods. They do not cook with the same materials, nor do they have any knowledge of the Arabic culture’s cuisine. It has been several years since the fundraiser.

On the two Eids, the community gathers together to have a meal and worship. Different people or groups trade off during Ramadan to provide food for others of the community.

Research by:

Jennifer Mazell 1/23/2002