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As Ramadan ends, Islamic Society celebrates expansion

Islamic Society of Niagara Frontier
Groundbreaking for construction began in October 2019 and is now complete.

As local Muslims conclude of the holy month of Ramadan, one of the area's most important mosques is celebrating completion of a major addition to its facility in Amherst. The Muslim Community Center on Heim Road is a highly visible part of the Islamic Society of the Niagara Frontier and holds three services Thursday morning. That not only reflects the size of the congregation, but the limits of religious services in these times of social distancing.

A ribbon cutting and a tree planting will occur on Saturday marking completion of the $1.5 million expansion. Founding Chairman Dr. Khalid Qazi said completion was delayed by the pandemic.

"We had approval from the Town of Amherst for the expansion of the mosque itself because the area of the worshippers was getting very small, especially, there was no special place for ladies and they wanted to have a balcony," Qazi said. "So we had the plans that were approved by the town and got a little bit delayed by COVID."

Credit Islamic Society of Niagara Frontier
A rendering of the new second-floor prayer area for Sisters, overlooking the prayer area for men on the first floor.

Qazi said before the pandemic, it wasn't unusual for 500 people to be in the facility for Friday prayers, making for tight quarters in what has been the mosque area in the complex. The congregation began a half-century ago with the conversion of a dentist's office in North Buffalo to a mosque, still used by members.

"This space is much better now, although right now because of the social distancing and other guidelines, we're not able to use the space as much as we would otherwise," Qazi said. "But, nevertheless, it has eased a lot of congestion and a lot of angst on the part of the parishioners."

Credit Islamic Society of Niagara Frontier
The first-floor prayer area has been expanded to accommodate the growing congregation.

Qazi said the facility is important to the Muslim community because it offers so many services.

"Weddings. There are counseling sessions. And people die. We give them washing there and then have funeral services, etc. We also have weekend schools," he said. "So the center caters to not only the religious, but also the social and cultural needs of the communiy."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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