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Santa Clara mosque showcases new 64-foot tall minaret
A fawning, "Isn't it simply marvelous?!" paean to Islamic monuments of conquest. By Lisa Fernandez for San Jose Mercury News:
As is their annual Ramadan tradition, Muslims at the Bay Area's largest mosque will welcome friends and strangers to an open house Saturday evening. But this year, they'll be showcasing a new minaret -- the architectural equivalent to a Christian cross or Jewish Star of David.
The minaret (a word related to the Arabic word for lighthouse) stands 64 feet tall, and can be spotted along U.S. Highway 101 or in the light industrial neighborhood of Scott Boulevard. Made with all American steel, the symbolic touches include Islamic-style stars, a rounded top and lights to be shined at night.
"It feels good," said Mohammed Sarodi, chairman of the board of trustees of the Muslim Community Association. "Before, this mosque just looked like an office building, like HP. Now, this looks like the mosques back home."
Of course, by "home" he doesn't mean the country in which he has been living for who knows how many years. No, "home" means Dar al-Islam. It feels good when this place, the U.S., has been transformed to look more like ..."home".
About 400 guests are expected to tour the new 9,400-square-foot addition to the MCA in Santa Clara, including school board members from Mountain View and San Jose, council members from Santa Clara, Cupertino and Los Altos, and members of the marketing team from the San Jose Tech Museum.
Designed by architect Amin Qazi, the minaret is the highlight of an overall $3 million expansion of the now-92,500-square-foot building painted in the various shades of desert sand. The new entrances, foyer, bookstore and the modern, spalike absolution room for washing feet before prayer, complete the final construction phase of the mosque.
Mosque leaders are pleased that now, at least, their traditionally nondescript, one-story complex in a neighborhood of office parks and warehouses will stand out to their brothers and sisters as an easy-to-find landmark for Muslim worship. On a typical Friday, the mosque is visited by up to 4,000 worshipers, coming in three shifts to mark the holy afternoon prayer.
Unlike most new church or synagogue decorative construction projects, this minaret, and others across the globe, have been magnets for various shades of controversy.
MCA's minaret, standing gracefully on property that members bought for $3.5 million from Hewlett-Packard in 1993, wasn't a huge target of attack. But it did make headlines last summer when Thomas Scott, whose office window at Cambridge Management across the street, complained to the city that the addition of the minaret was architectural "piecemeal."
Another person railed against "Islamic domination" and "Muslims taking over America."
But in a letter to this newspaper last year, Scott wrote he did not identify with the people who feared the minaret would house religious leaders loudly calling out "Allahu akbar" from the heights of the structure (they will not, it's a decorative minaret only) and called some of the naysayers "nutcakes."
Can't argue with well-reasoned arguments like that.
Scott did not return a phone call to see what he thinks of the minaret now.
About a year ago, a new mosque and minaret for the Anjuman-e-Jamali community in Palo Alto was approved without any controversy.
But announcements of the new Silicon Valley minarets came at a time when the nation was recently embroiled in a discussion over whether to build a Muslim community center just blocks from the World Trade Center towers destroyed by Islamist terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001. That project, still in limbo, drew major criticism from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and the Anti-Defamation League, the nation's most prominent Jewish civil rights group. Two years ago, the Swiss voted to ban the construction of new minarets.
But thankfully, Sarodi said, the overall reaction in Santa Clara has been wonderful and warm. Sarodi said MCA is good for Santa Clara, too.
"Santa Clara is a lovely place," Sarodi said. "A lot of Muslims have moved here because of our mosque."