Chapel Hill Gets First Mosque


Catering to the growing number of Muslims, the North Carolina city of Chapel Hill will open its first mosque in the next few weeks, fulfilling a five-year-old dream of the religious minority.

“Chapel Hill has been known to welcome different faiths,” the Chapel Hill Islamic Society (CHIS) secretary, Sohail Khan, told Daily Tarheel on Wednesday, October 7.

“I think the Muslim community, as such, has been kind of missing. The closest place is in Durham. Some folks go as far as Raleigh.”

Though the city has more than 50 churches, a Jewish synagogue and two Buddhist temples, it doesn’t have a mosque.

Overcoming the problem, hundreds of Chapel Hill Muslims have been forced to pray alone, travel to mosques in other cities or meet at select hours in the rooms of a local church or the Student Union.

“There are three mosques in Durham, which are accessible to me because I have a car,” Omar Rezk, an Egyptian junior majoring in nutrition in the University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Public Health, who has attended a mosque in Durham since he was a kid, said.

“I know for some students on campus who don’t have cars, that does affect them to a certain degree.”

Muslims students have their own prayer room in UNC, which is opened from 8 am to 10 pm on a daily basis.

Friday prayers are also held at the room.


The dream of having a mosque started in 2010 when CHIS bought a four-bedroom home on nearly an acre of land at 103 Stateside Drive for the purpose of creating a worship place.

By 2014, Chapel Hill Planning Commission approved the property after applying some changes to the place, with a cost of more than $3,500 paid by CHIS.

“It’s a long, drawn-out process,” Khan said.

“The fact that we got our primary approval in June of 2014 didn’t allow us to start work immediately. It meant a host of other, smaller approvals until we finally got our construction permit a year later.”

Providing funds for the mosque has been the biggest challenge for the city’s Muslim community.

“All those changes obviously take time and money,” Khan said.

“We’re a small group. Money is always a challenge.”

With an estimated $150,000 price tag from donations, the project is expected to be completed by November.

Last February 10, three Muslim-American students—Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19—were found shot in the head, execution-style, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

The two young women were wearing traditional hijabs when they were killed.

The gunman, identified as 46-year-old Craig Stephen Hicks, reportedly turned himself into police.

Shocked by the heinous crime, world Muslims mourned the three young American Muslims in North Carolina, pouring into social media to send messages of solidarity to the victims’ families.

Twitter users started to employ the hashtag “#MuslimLivesMatter,” to comment on how the mainstream media ignored the news of the murder which did not make national headlines.


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