This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
SANDY - Tucked in the corner of a strip mall, right beside a closed-down Lowe's home improvement store, Utah Muslims have a new place to pray and gather.
At the spiritual helm of the Utah Islamic Center is Imam Shuaib-ud Din, the longtime religious leader of the Islamic Society of Greater Salt Lake and West Valley City's Khadeeja Masjid, or mosque, and a man who faced charges of domestic violence earlier this year.
But what did or didn't happen in the imam's home five months ago, when his wife claimed he slammed her against a refrigerator and threatened her life, didn't keep the crowds away. About 150 people streamed in for Friday afternoon prayers, one week after the center first opened its doors.
"Allah has not permitted us to judge any other human. [Imam Shuaib's] personal business is his personal business," said Nasir Khan. "We are blessed to have him here. Our spiritual belief is, everything happened for a reason."
Addressing those who'd gathered in what was once an office space, the imam asked for people's prayers.
"Allah has given me the chance to stand in front of you," he said.
He spoke of how with Allah the most difficult tasks can be achieved. And for years, he said, the Muslim community has spoken about opening a mosque in the southern part of the Salt Lake Valley to accommodate the expanding Muslim population. Efforts twice before failed, the imam said. "This is our third time, and God willing we'll succeed."
The people there praised the imam for his interfaith work, his skill with children and his grasp of Islamic teachings. He was, they said, simply too good to let go.
In mid-January, the Islamic Society fired their imam of seven years after his wife claimed he assaulted her 11 days before she walked into a police station. By mid-April, Din pleaded guilty to three charges, one third-degree felony and two class B misdemeanors. His attorney, Blake Nakamura, said Friday that the pleas were entered in large part because of Din's "desire to put this to rest so he can get back to doing what he does and let the community heal." The pleas are being held in abeyance for 18 months, during which time Din has agreed to get counseling. As long as he completes counseling and commits no other crimes, Nakamura said, he will face "no further sanctions."
Din, who now has visitation rights with his two young children, called the last five months "a very humbling experience. I've learned what books cannot teach. But it's not so much about me, it's about the Islamic Center. . . imams come and go, but these stay until the end."
The imam said he turned down half-a-dozen offers to work in other states but wanted to stay near his family and friends. He called this new opportunity "a silver lining on this dark cloud."
What excites him and others involved in the new center most are the possibilities. A summer camp for kids will start on Tuesday. By fall they intend to have a Sunday school up and running. Nadeem Ahmed, who's part of the advisory council, emphasized that the center will be more than just a mosque. Walking through the space, he pointed out areas where people can gather, where games and activities will be available for children. He spoke of the hope of increased interfaith outreach and programming.
The overarching goal is to be "inclusive, progressive and transparent," Din said. A Shia Muslim is serving on the advisory council, something that was not allowed in the Islamic Society constitution, he said. Though there will soon be a separate area for women to sit in the mosque, Ahmed said they are welcome to join men in the same room if they prefer.
Sophia Said, also on the advisory council, is proud of what she's seeing so far.
"In Islam, men and women are supposed to work together," she said of a teaching she believes is too often forgotten. "When women are part of the vision, I think we'll see better results."
* JESSICA RAVITZcan be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 801-257-8776.
To find out more about the new Utah Islamic Center, visit http://www.utislamiccenter.org or call 801-255-2212.