Friday, July 27, 2012

Islamic Center of the East Bay (Antioch, Contra Costa County, CA)

Growing up, I never considered Antioch to be part of the Bay Area.  It was a distant land, far away from the San Francisco or San Pablo Bays and near something called the Sacramento River Delta.  Chances are if you saw an ad for a gun show in the South Bay, it was being held in Antioch, or Oakley, or somewhere out there in the boonies.  Definitely home to a bunch of gun-and-religion clingers as far as I was considered.

It's unsurprising that I thought this.  Few people lived out here, and even fewer Muslims.  The mosque I visited tonight was established with the support of 10 families in the late 1990s.  Imagine, in a time when MCA in the Silicon Valley was hosting guma prayers of 2,000 people, this mosque barely had enough men to hold a guma of their own.

Since then, this region has experience exponential growth.  Drawn to the area by large and affordable housing, the Muslim population has grown very quickly.  In response to the population boom, the community established a sizable mosque in a former dentists' office.  Being a dentists' office, the dimensions of the space weren't quite conducive to holding a prayer area, but this community made it work, and thrived.

Then it all went up in flames.

The 5-0 refused to call it an act of terror or a hate crime because there wasn't conclusive evidence that it wasn't an accident or that the mosque was targeted because it was a mosque.  Luckily, despite that, the insurance paid out and the community was given the opportunity to build a proper mosque practically from the ground up.

And build a proper mosque they did.  Locals have affectionately nicknamed it Jean Grey because of how it rose from the ashes.  You can tell, however, that the alleged arson shook this community to the core.  Tall iron gates surround the building, and surveillance cameras cover every vulnerable spot around the mosque.  You would think you were in the roughest urban neighborhood if you saw the masjid from the outside.

From the inside, though, it's real purty-like and welcoming.  A splendid green carpet adorns the floor of the men's section, and the women's section had a gorgeous hardwood floor.  The bathrooms are pristine, and congregants take great care to not turn the floor into a Slip 'n Slide, something lacking in most of the mosques I've visited.

What impressed me most about this masjid was the youngling to uncle ratio.  There were a stunning number of young people in attendance given how small the community is.  If anything, this says a lot about the strength of the masjid's Sunday School program.  If these kids take their faith as seriously as they did their taraweeh tonight, this mosque is in good hands.

Big Brother-in-Islam is watching you.

Them Moslems is so patriotic they won a prize for it!

Men's prayer area, which doubles as a madrassa for kids on Sundays.

Date Visited: July 26, 2012

311 W. 18th Street
Antioch, CA 91234

Tag-team taraweeh: Nope

Qirat: Interesting.  Never heard recitation like it before.

Size of congregation: 70-80 people

Capacity of center: 100-200 total

Parking: Lot and street.  Folks tend to double-park in the lots so it's recommended to park on the street if you want to jet after 8 in the Desi-20 mosque.

Mihrab: Yes

Minbar: Yes

Shoe shelves: Ample.  Indoor and outdoor shelves for spillover!

Building: A former dentists' office that was burned to the ground and then rebuilt by the community to suit its needs better.

Friendliness towards women: Very high.  Women are given an equitable and very decent place to pray.

Friendliness of congregation: High.  The diversity quotient here is off the charts and I'm confident they welcome all comers.

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