Mosque on Shaw's campus reopens to public as long-term negotiations continue

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Wednesday, August 16, 2023
Mosque on Shaw's campus reopens to public as negotiations continue
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Following months of public protests, King Khalid Mosque and Shaw University have come to an agreement regarding access to the house of worship on the school's campus.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Following months of public protests, King Khalid Mosque and Shaw University have come to an agreement regarding access to the house of worship on the school's campus.

The news was first publicly shared Monday by the Council on American Islamic Relations, which has worked alongside mosque leadership on the matter.

"The community is back in the masjid. The fight is not over yet though, but this is an important step in a good direction," said Al Reider of CAIR, in a taped video shared on the organization's X, formerly known as Twitter, account.

A Memorandum of Understanding, obtained by ABC11, between the mosque and Shaw, laid out terms of the agreement, which will allow members of the public to worship at the site for the next three years.

"I opened the doors. I couldn't believe it. I just fell to the ground in prostration to God to thank Almighty that we're able to come back again. We were all made together and everybody come. It was you know, a lot of happiness. Happiness for the community," said Assistant Imam Musa Jabbi.

King Khalid Mosque opened in 1983 after the Saudi government provided a $1 million grant toward its construction. Since then, it has been used by members of the university community and the public.

"The historical significance of this facility still holds true to many people," said attorney Nigel Edwards, who is a Board Member of the mosque.

In March 2020, the mosque was closed because of the pandemic response. The following year, mosque leadership reached out to the university requesting to return, but say they were told the university was not prepared to do so. As a private institution, Shaw is able to implement policies regarding visitor access to buildings. Though Edwards explained the mosque understood the university's right to dictate policy, members questioned why the chapel on campus was open to the public while the mosque remained closed.

"The reason that we were given is because, well, they can be open to the public because the university is administering those services to the divinity school, whereas we were considered to be an outside organization," said Edwards.

"All of a sudden all that stops and people didn't know what or where to go, what to do," said Jabbi, about the lack of services offered during the mosque's closure.

In January, members of the mosque began to protest, calling on the university to reverse course and reopen the mosque to all members. While the university did allow students to return, members of the public were not able to access the space.

"I was receiving a lot of calls from members of the community, Muslim community, young and old, and parents. 'when is the mosque going to be open? When are we going to be able to come back and worship God?' Remember, there's a lot of older people living in this area," said Jabbi.

Edwards said the university reached out in April to begin discussions about a return to the property, which led to the Memorandum of Understanding signed by both parties earlier this month. Part of the agreement mandates each side "mutually exchange all documents in their possession relevant to resolving the Dispute within 30 days" and negotiate in good faith on a long-term solution. There is no rental fee to use the space, though the mosque will pay a fixed rate of $938.33 on a monthly basis to the university toward operating expenses.

"It's only temporary. Three years, it seems like a long time, but it's really not when you think about it. And we need the community to remain engaged with us," Edwards said.

There are other offices and buildings used by the university within the building, located on MLK Boulevard, which includes the mosque. Members of the public do not have access to those spaces.

If a deal cannot be reached between both sides, there will be litigation to determine its future.

Edwards shared that the mosque is interested in working with the university on its development plans and is hopeful for further conversations.

"You look at our facilities with the mosque by itself and we want an upgrade as well. We'd love to be a part of that process. We just don't want to be shut out," said Edwards.

ABC11 reached out to Shaw University, requesting an interview or statement but has not yet heard back.