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Saturday, February 23 , 2019, 3:45 am | Fair 39º


Islamic Society of Santa Barbara Holds ‘Giving Thanks’ Ceremony for Community’s Support of Mosque

New Islamic center under construction in Goleta to cap 16-year journey, which includes devastating February fire


The site description might seem geometrically unusual — a “corner” of a roundabout — but it’s no less improbable than what is being built on the northeast corner of North Los Carneros Road and Calle Real in Goleta: a new Islamic mosque.

The Islamic Society of Santa Barbara’s two-story, 6,500-square-foot mosque and community center is expected to open in the summer of 2018 on the half-acre lot it purchased 16 years ago at 302 N. Los Carneros.

“We made a strategic plan to build a place that would be a shining example of humanity, where we could practice the essence and values of Islam in an environment of tolerance, understanding and compassion,” the society’s chairman, Jamal Hamdani, told Noozhawk.

When completed, the $4 million project will be the first Islamic center between San Luis Obispo and Ventura.

The independent Islamic Society is home to dozens of local families, who currently hold worship services, lectures and events at rented locations around Goleta — as they have since the organization was founded in 1985.

The property adjacent to Rancho La Patera & Stow House will serve as the new, permanent place of worship.

The center will be used for prayers, classes, and community and interfaith activities. The first floor will include an auditorium, library and meeting room, classrooms and an Imam studio. The second floor contains prayer and dining halls.

Green features of the building include photovoltaic roof panels, electric vehicle charging stations, bicycle parking and natural ventilation. The center also will store and use gray water and rainwater for landscaping.

All of the plants are drought-tolerant or California native, according to Ken Mineau, the Appleton Partners LLP architect who is working on the mosque.

“This is a special place,” he said.

The Goleta City Council unanimously approved the project in 2013.

Members of the Islamic Society hosted a “Giving Thanks” ceremony on Sunday afternoon to express appreciation for community members who supported the project through its long journey, as well as the community’s response after a devastating fire gutted its leased facility in a Goleta business park earlier this year.

More than 150 people attended the gathering, which included a tour of the building site.

Hamdani thanked the dignitaries, interfaith partners and other guests.

Former Rep. Lois Capps and Rep. Salud Carbajal, both D-Santa Barbara; the Goleta City Council; and the city’s Planning Commission and Design Review Board were recognized for their backing.

“If I wanted to thank everybody, it would take more than the 17 years it took to get here,” Hamdani said. “We are truly grateful. I want to thank the people in our community because there is a strong bond of faith, decency and goodness that has bonded us.”

Imam Yama Niazi, religious director at the Islamic Society of Santa Barbara, said building relationships has benefited the community.

“We could have been a small number of Muslims trying to build a mosque — but, instead, we built a bigger human family,” he said. “This is the purpose of our Islamic teaching. In this process, we got to know you.”

Growing the relationships doesn’t stop after the mosque is finished with construction.

“In our country, we need more unification more than ever,” Niazi said. “There’s a lot of hatred, bigotry and anti-Muslim racism.

“As we continue, as a community, to build our relationships, this doesn’t end with building a mosque. This is just the beginning.”

The community also stepped up to help after a Feb. 19 fire destroyed the Islamic Center’s mosque in a commercial building at 650 Ward Drive. Arson was ruled out as a cause of the fire, which also badly damaged the offices and headquarters of a half-dozen other tenants.

There were no injuries, but damage estimates were extensive.

The Islamic Society received nearly $100,000 in donations, and many area churches offered their facilities for daily prayers and other support, according Marty Jenkins, a member of the Santa Barbara Interfaith Initiative.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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