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Mosque Foundation in July, 2013
|Location||7360 W. 93rd St., Bridgeview, Illinois
The Mosque Foundation is located in Bridgeview, Illinois. It serves the spiritual, religious and communal needs of area Muslims by means of nurturing their faith, upholding their values, and fostering the wellbeing of the community around it through worship, charity, education, outreach, and civic engagement.
In 1954 a handful of Palestinian émigrés on Chicago’s famous Southside formed the Mosque Foundation of Chicago with the dream of one day building a structure to house the religious and cultural activities of their growing young families. The foundation’s first prayer leader, Khalil Zayid, was a poor salesman who could neither read nor write in English, but who recognized the need for a place to practice his religion. Unable to drive, Zayid asked his daughter Miriam to take him from door to door to ask for money to build a mosque. Everyone in the early foundation chipped in to help raise funds including the women of the foundation who held bake sales in an effort to raise funds. Today, that dream has become one of the busiest mosques in America, serving a community of more than 50,000 Muslims.
By the 1970s all Zayid and the other Palestinian immigrants could afford was an empty lot in Bridgeview situated between railroad tracks and a trailer park, But the 1970s ushered in a new wave of immigrants who were both political and educated. By appealing to their wealthy charities in Saudi Arabia, on the grounds that their children were in danger of being lost to an “unIslamic society,” the newcomers to Bridgeview were able to raise $1.2 million dollars. Built in 1981 on a few acres of swampy land in the middle of mostly abandoned prairie in Bridgeview, the new mosque was composed of a prayer hall with a capacity of 300 worshippers. No one could foresee that the mosque’s establishment would inspire a Muslim neighborhood of hundreds of beautiful new homes around the mosque, two full-time Islamic schools at its edges, a Community Center down the road, and dozens of thriving businesses.
The new mosque leaders stripped Zayid from his post and replaced him with Masoud Ali Masoud, a conservative Islamic scholar and member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Changes were made in the community whereby women were asked to cover their hair and separated from men. In November, 1981 protests broke out among mosque members who objected to being affiliated with the Brotherhood and the foundation’s decision to turn the deed of the mosque over to the North American Atlantic Trust. Eventually, the dispute was settled in a 1983 Chicago hearing by a judge who deemed that no one had acted unlawfully. The community has steadily diversified to include Muslims of many languages and experiences—all praying side-by-side, with their children, in a brimming mosque that cannot contain them.
By 1985 Sheikh Jamal Said, inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood, became the religious leader at the foundation where he now remains. Known for his fiery sermons, and his efforts to help oppressed Muslims, Jamal is a well-respected imam and member of the community. Under Jamal’s leadership, and with Saudi Arabia partially financing his salary, the mosque offers a politically conservative version of Islam, though moderate Muslims are also allowed to pray at the mosque. Several former leaders claim that the mosque’s conservative teachings come from the proliferation of Brotherhood members. Today, imams of the foundation are active in counseling, education, spiritual guidance, and arbitration. Community members work with local and national Islamic, interfaith, and civic organizations on numerous initiatives. These include protecting American civil liberties, empowering Muslims locally and nationally, improving the quality of urban life across America, and helping the poor, immigrants, and the oppressed by advocating for justice and peace.
1954: Official Registration
1963: Interim Location Purchased
1976: Tax-exempt Status Approved
1977: Mosque Architectural Plan Completed
1978: Construction Began
1981: Mosque Opened
1986: Aqsa School for Girls Opened in Mosque*
1996: Youth Center Opened
1998: Interim Expansion Completed
2002: Lot for Additional Parking Purchased and Developed
2004: Reopened Youth Center after Major Remodeling
2005: Muslim Community Donated Lakeshore Chicago Garden to the City of Chicago
2005: Food Pantry Opened
2006: Expanded Youth Center to Community Center
2007: Started Mosque Foundation Community Pulse Newsletter
2007: New Website Launched
2008: Second major expansion completed
Allegations of terrorism funding
Abdullah Azzam, Osama bin Laden’s spiritual mentor, visited the mosque in the mid-1980s to recruit support for the Afghan war against the Soviet Union.
In 1993, mosque leader Muhammad Saleh was arrested at the Gaza Strip checkpoint and accused of financing Hamas. Salah was later accused of using U.S. banks to launder money to Hamas.
According to a speech taped in 2000, Sheikh Jamal solicited people at an Islamic conference to help raise funds for a Palestinian suicide bomber.
After September 11, 2001 federal officials closed three Islamic charities operating near the foundation, and receiving donations from them, under suspicion that they were aiding terrorists. The foundation itself was not accused.
In 2007, the foundation raised $50,000 dollars to aid Sami Al-Arian, a Palestinian activist who pleaded guilty to contributing services to a terrorist organization.
In 2008, two of the mosque’s leaders, Jamal Said and Kifah Mustapha were deemed “unindicted co-conspirators” in a US criminal trial against the Holy Land Foundation, who the US treasury department accused of supporting Hamas in the West Bank and Gaza.
The North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), who held the deed to the foundation in 1981, has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and is listed as an “unindicted co-conspirator” to the 2008 Holy Land Foundation trial.
As much as $1 million dollars a year has been raised by the foundation and sent to overseas Muslim charities that have been involved in terrorism finance – The Holy Land Foundation, Benevolence International, and the Global Relief Foundation.
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