Here are the top 10 items which the American Muslim Community should do if they do NOT want to build a new Mosque:
10. If your community finds a good sized piece of land (or an existing building) at a good price, then don’t look into the zoning or check to see if a religious assembly can legally be held there! You can figure out the zoning later, after you have bought the land and invested a lot of the community’s money. Getting a legal use permit is a waste of time and money. We don’t have to do that back home, so why do it here right?
9. If the site is sloped, don’t try to find out how much it would cost to grade the site (make it flat) for a new building. The cost of grading will just scare you away and you will miss out on buying a nice piece of property at a really good price (and that’s all that matters, isn’t it?)
8. If the site is narrow or has little space for parking, don’t worry about it. You can figure out parking after you have bought the property at a very good price. Adding a parking garage or underground parking is definitely do-able. It’s not that expensive, and they both cost about the same anyways. You can always tell people in the community to carpool to the mosque. Don’t let this property get away – Buy It Now!
7. Don’t bother getting to know your neighbors, because they may be afraid of having a mosque nearby and you don’t want them to create problems. Talking to them ahead of time, may make you change your mind about building in the middle of a residential, commercial or industrial area. And don’t bother to meet city and county officials. They only help if you give them money. They don’t really care about your project and will try to stop it from happening because they are always against Muslims. All government officials are Islamophobes, anyways!
6. Make sure your project committee consists of only Computer Programmers, Doctors and Businessmen (But NO women – they cause too many problems). They are all smart and successful people and they can handle a complex design and construction project without any training or experience (except for renovating their own home kitchen and bathrooms)! Make sure this project committee tries to get as many volunteers as possible to help with the project. Volunteers are great. They can do anything and the best thing is that you don’t even have to pay them for their countless hours of time! Did I mention that they work for FREE?!
5. Now we are half way there, the top 5 way on how NOT to build a mosque is: If you want to get a construction cost estimate make sure to use the first contractor’s estimate (because you Really Only Need One). You also don’t need to give them any drawings, since if they are good contractors, they can give you an accurate estimate by just looking at the site! But if you do have blueprints, make sure to use those drawings for your project’s estimated budget, even though you will end up changing the design. It doesn’t matter, because the revised estimate will probably end up close to the original estimate. Construction costs don’t change much. If they do – it’s the Designer’s fault, Not yours!
3. This one is a Doozey: Don’t hire a professional and licensed Architect. They charge way too much and anyone can Design a mosque (see item # 6 above). It’s not that complicated. And whatever you do, Do NOT hire a Muslim Architect. Go with a Non-Muslim Architect, because they are better at designing Islamic stuff. Why waste money on a Muslim Architect, when they should just volunteer their time, Fi-Sabilillah anyways?!
2. If your community does decide to hire a professional design team, hire the CHEAPEST firm you can find (same for the contractor). You’re not building the Taj Mahal, right? Hint: If the contractor does not ask any questions during the bid process and gives a really low estimate, that means they are Really Smart and they Know their stuff. Hire them right away, before they change their mind and go onto another big project! P.S. Don’t bother to check if they are licensed in the city your project is in, because sometimes the best contractors are so busy they forget to keep up with their licensing paperwork!
1. And the Number 1 reason on how NOT to build a mosque is: Make sure to spend all the millions of dollars you raise for the project on the physical building and leave nothing left over for the Imam or Religious scholar to lead your community. Investing in highly trained Imams who can relate to the youth, speak effectively to the media, interact with interfaith leaders and can give counseling to community members in need are way over-rated. The community really only cares about nice looking buildings and a parking spot right in front of the mosque (especially if they are the President of the Mosque)! Who wants to walk a block or two to the mosque?! This isn’t India or Pakistan, its America for God’s sake!
Irfan Rydhan is an Architectural Designer with over 15 years of professional experience. He has both volunteered and been hired to consult on several different mosque projects across the S.F. Bay Area. His blog, (http://patheos.com/blogs/almihrab), is about Architectural Design, Media Activism, Islamic Art and Halal Food. You can follow him on twitter @IrfanRydhan