Islamic Society of Augusta opens new center, introduces leader

The Islamic Society of Augusta opened the doors of its new 35,000-square-foot community center and mosque Thursday night to introduce the congregation’s new imam to leaders of other faiths.

Imam Mohamad Jamal Daoudi arrived in Augusta three weeks ago to lead the Isla­mic society. He said he has found an energetic community that is already embracing his goal to build bridges between Muslims and other groups.

“In order to live right on this planet, we need to work together and cooperate,” Daoudi said. “My dream is to see representatives of the three Abrahamic religions sitting together at a round table discussing how they can bring their communities up in a better way.”

Daoudi has served as an imam for 12 years, previously leading groups in Lancaster, Calif., and Charleston, W.Va. He studied Islamic law and English in Syria and earned a doctorate in ministry from the United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio.

Before coming to Augusta with his wife and three children, Daoudi spent several years in Syria’s capital, Damascus, pursuing more studies. He left amid conflict in the country.

About 30 leaders from other faiths were invited to a reception and tour of the facility, which opened in mid-October to accommodate growth. The Islamic Society of Augusta has about 500 regular members, but even more live in Augusta and surrounding counties.

“It’s a place where people have to learn to live with each other in harmony,” society member Asma Fischer said. “Non-Muslims should feel comfortable being here.”

The facility features large and small prayer halls, a multipurpose hall with a basketball court, a kitchen, 14 classrooms and a library. There is also a youth center with televisions, game tables and computers.

The community center at 465 Old Evans Road replaced the society’s original center on Middleton Drive. Construction began in March 2011.

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