Two years ago the residents of Northwest Baltimore and Pikesville learned that a mosque would be moving into their neighborhood. After years of waiting on renovations and inspections, the Ahmadi Muslim mosque finally will open its doors later this year, giving residents of the predominantly Jewish community an opportunity to interact with a population that has been largely absent from this section of Baltimore.
“We live in a complicated world,” said Rabbi Andrew Busch of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation. “We need to know both about ourselves and about other people also. We need to learn about communities beyond our own.”
The Baltimore chapter of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA will move into its new home on the corner of Park Heights and Slade avenues — across the street from Baltimore Hebrew — sometime this year, said Baltimore chapter president Dr. Faheem Younus. The group bought the former Slade Mansion a couple years ago but has been working to bring it up to code before moving into the space full time.
Younus said he has been asked a lot about what led to the chapter’s decision to move to Park Heights, a traditionally Jewish area, but the answer is much simpler than people might think. The price was right and the location was within about 20 miles of all the members’ homes. Plus, noted the physician, there was a yard large enough for a playground.
“We’re all Abrahamic cousins — Jews, Christians, Muslims. We don’t look at it as a positive or a negative,” said Younus, who works as a clinical associate professor of medicine at the University of Maryland, where he mentors internal medicine residents. “We all work together, we live together; we’re a pluralistic society.”
Although they have not formally left their current home on Garrison Boulevard, the reception in Park Heights has been warm, with Baltimore Hebrew offering use of its parking lot while the mosque’s own lot is expanded.
“From the top to the grassroots, whether you talk to Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, to Chizuk Amuno, to average people who are coming to attend our courses, to our friends, to our colleagues, it has been very positive,” said Younus.
Busch said that Baltimore Hebrew’s brotherhood hosted a talk by the former president of the Baltimore Ahmadiyya chapter when the group first purchased the property next door, and Younus stated that he hopes the interaction between his mosque and the neighboring community grows stronger as the building’s opening approaches. Younus, who gives regular talks about Islam to community organizations and teaches a class on religion at the Community Colleges of Baltimore, said the chapter plans to host an open house for people to come and learn more about the minority Ahmadi sect when the mosque is fully operational.
Said Younus: “It’s all about coming together. We want to make sure that the door of this mosque is open to all citizens.”