Muslims celebrate new Islamic center

Six men worked behind eight gas grills in an open field on Hoadly Road on Sunday afternoon to cook enough hot dogs, hamburgers and barbecued chicken to feed more than 400 members of Dar al Salaam.

The field is the future site of Dar Alnoor, a new Islamic Center, and the people gathered there came to celebrate the beginning of their new mosque and to meet for the annual festival of the Muslim Association of Virginia.

Rafi Ahmed said membership at Dar al Salaam on Dumfries Road between Minnieville and Spriggs roads has outgrown its current building.

“Our Friday services are so full that people have to pray outside,” said Ahmed, an executive committee member of the construction project.

Ahmed said the sale of the old mosque will help finance the new Islamic Center that eventually will house a school and community and worship centers behind a facade of minarets, domes, pillars and arches.

While the adults sat beneath shade tents with food from grills and an astonishingly spicy side dish called chatney, made mainly of chick peas seasoned with curry and zarda, a sweet yellow rice, the children ran to play volleyball and soccer or to toss around a football.

When the afternoon prayers were done, fathers tossed baseballs to their young sons who occasionally got a hit with their short aluminum bats.

Yaqub Zargarpur, president of the Muslim Association of Virginia and a local businessman, said the festival served several roles this year.

Muslims, like everyone else, were deeply affected by the September attacks, Zargarpur said.

“A lot has happened. A lot of people are not feeling comfortable and everybody has been feeling down. This is to kind of lift up their spirits,” said Zargarpur, as people played checkers, chess and a lively game called carrom.

The carrom board is made of finished oak and is about a yard square. There are four pockets at the corners of the board, which has a raised rail made from the wood af a mango tree.

The carrom pieces are similar to checkers in size and weight and come in black and white and slide across the board.

Four people play the game and take turns trying to bump their pieces into the pockets using a larger striker piece they flick with their fingers.

There is one red piece. The team that sinks the red piece first wins the game.

The physics of the popular game are similar to billiards and the contenders and spectators are as ready with advice and opinion as any in a pool hall.

During the game, a player from Afghanistan might team amicably with someone from Kashmir while players from India and Turkey form the other team.

Yaqub Zargarpur’s wife Lisa Zargarpur said Muslims who come to America from around the world are looking for the same things as previous immigrant groups and usually leave their homeland politics behind.

“We struggle for the same things for our children as any other group. We want them to be moral, educated, successful and happy,” said Lisa Zargarpur, a graduate of Osbourn Park High School who married into Islam and converted.

Her husband’s parents immigrated from Afghanistan to escape the Russian invasion in the ’80s, Zargarpur said.

The people gathered at the field Sunday represented most of the Islamic countries of the world, Zargarpur said.

“Basically you could just spin a globe and start pointing your finger,” she said.

“All of these people came here for a reason. You’re not going to find all of those hometown, home country battles here. Everybody came here for a better life. They’re not radicals and they’re not bringing it here,” Zargarpur said.

Staff writer Keith Walker can be reached at (703) 878-8063.

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