Hope And Trepidation Mix As Bellevue Mosque Is Rebuilt
The Islamic Center of Eastside is Bellevue’s only mosque. It was at this Sacred Space that Muslims from more than 40 different countries prayed five times a day.
That is, until it was the target of arson -- not once, but twice.
In the Islamic faith, the mosque is not only a house of prayer, but the central place for Muslims to gather, according to Omer Lone, a mosque elder at the Center.
"The mosque plays the role of the community center," he said. "It's the university and the town hall."
In a storefront a few miles away from the charred ruins of the mosque, a large prayer carpet covers the floor, angled toward Mecca. This rented space serves as a temporary location for the community.
Lone says the first fire was a traumatic experience. When the second fire happened less than a year later, he could hardly believe it.
The blackened ruins of the old mosque are being cleared away to make room for rebuilding the new mosque. It's set to be completed in the next year to 18 months.
Investigators have said they believe neither of the arsons was motivated by hate. Still, there are lingering anxieties in the community.
"There are questions," says Lone.
"As we are talking about the construction project, people want it to be secure, which implies that people have that fear," he said.
Still, Lone says he's looking forward to being in the new mosque because it will feel like home. He also says after the mosque is rebuilt, the community has a role to play in explaining what Islam is about.
"I'm very sure and hopeful [that] as people will know about it, they will realize the beauty in the religion," Lone said.