Brother Mohammed Rashid, who served as president of Fox Valley Islamic Society from 2006 to 2015, was also one of the community’s original members, when there were only fifteen to twenty Muslim families in the Fox Valley. The current mosque in Neenah was, for a time, the only masjid outside of Milwaukee.
Before it was built, community members celebrated Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr at local churches, which also lent their facilities to the Muslim community for Jumu’ah.
Prior to the original mosque being built in 1980, Br Rashid remembers that most of the people who spoke at a public hearing were opposed, particularly homeowners surrounding the land where it was to be built. Br Rashid recalls that a local newspaper even wrote an editorial in opposition to the building of a mosque in Neenah.
But local religious leaders, both Catholic and Protestant, spoke in favor, and eventually Neenah’s common council decided unanimously to grant the building permit.
However, “our community people were concerned that outwardly they didn’t want the building to look like a mosque design, so we made it look more like a house,” so it didn’t stand out from its neighbors, Br Rashid says.
Over the years, all of the mosque’s neighbors “became our friends and well-wishers,” Br Rashid says. One neighbor “always allows over-flow parking on his land every year” during celebrations, and others “keep an eye” on the property.
“We are very peace-loving people,” says Br Rashid. “We try to help our neighbors, we try to get along with our neighbors, and they became our good friends.”
In June of this year, when a public hearing on the proposed new mosque was held, Br Rashid says they were “the largest public hearings the city ever had” with an equal number of supporters to those opposed. However, “supporters were very vocal,” says Br Rashid. And once again, plans for the mosque were approved unanimously.