Harford County mosque breaks new ground

Neighbors welcome Muslim group to Abingdon

ABINGDON, Md. - They represent a small minority among Maryland's religious groups, yet Muslims may be the least understood of them all.

Audrey Pillar is prepared to give them a chance with renovation underway on what will become Harford County's first mosque right next door.

"Not all Christians bomb abortion clinics, either," said Pillar, "So there are extremes in all areas, and not all Muslims are bad people."

Talk about your fixer uppers.

What was once a small ranch-style home with sewage problems on its five-acre site represents the future for Muslims here.

"People use to go to Baltimore. (It's) almost an hour's drive," said Dr. Rehan Khan, a spokesman for the group, who claims the modest mosque on Philadelphia Road in Abingdon will give people of his faith a religious center to call home, "There are about a hundred families in the area. Most of them are highly professional physicians, pharmacists, computer specialists... living in the area. There's not a single place of worship for them."

Muslims profess Islam is grounded in the pursuit of peace, but overcoming adversity to build such mosques drove one group to convert this abandoned auto dealership in White Marsh last year.

While the Abingdon facility's neighbors appear willing to accept their new neighbor, some fear it could become a target based on ignorance and intolerance.

"Well, I feel our country is based on freedom, and they're certainly free to practice whatever religion they choose to," said Pillar, "I'd be concerned about any negative impact in the community, as far as what other people think and any retaliated efforts from other people with my kids here. I just want my kids to be safe where they can play in the yard."

Once work on the mosque is completed, the group plans to hold an international food festival to serve as an open-house for the community.

Long range plans include providing a soup kitchen, an after-school program and a free health clinic as well.


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