A new mosque opened in Pocatello on October 3, near Idaho State University at 1513 S. Fifth Avenue.
Daniel Hummel, the General Secretary for the Islamic Society of South Eastern Idaho and the mosque’s spokesperson, said the mosque has been in the making for the past ten years, and has made significant progress within the last five years.
The Islamic Society of South Eastern Idaho has existed in Pocatello for the past 25 years, according to the organization’s website.
Its mission is to “organize Muslim prayer, learning and social activities on behalf of the Muslim community in south-east Idaho, including Pocatello, American Falls, Idaho Falls, and Rexburg,” according to the website.
Hummel said the mosque was converted from an old Mexican restaurant.
Hummel said everything from the roof to the pipes was replaced.
The only thing the society did not replace was the foundation.
“Everything was in terrible shape,” Hummel said.
The mosque is the only one in southeastern Idaho, with the next closest available in Logan, Utah.
There are 1.6 billion Muslims around the world, according to a 2012 Pew Research study, to make it the second largest religion in the world next to Christianity.
Hummel said no permission was needed from within the religion to build the mosque, because Islam is a decentralized religion.
“There hasn’t been a central leader since the abolishment of the Caliphate in the 20th century, which at that time was defunct,” said Hummel.
Hummel said they are part of the Islamic Society of North America, but they don’t take orders from them.
Hummel, who is new to the Pocatello area, said when he first arrived in Pocatello there was only an apartment available to meet and pray in.
“I was thinking that maybe Pocatello wasn’t the place for me, but now that there is a mosque I feel more comfortable in staying here,” he said.
Hummel said that unlike his previous home in southern Florida, where there are 30 mosques in the three different counties, Pocatello was definitely an adjustment.
He said many in the community also felt this same sentiment.
“Now we have a big mosque. Big traditional mosque,” said Abdullah Althawad in an interview with KPVI. “This is a brand new one so we are very excited here.”
Hummel said about 2,000 Muslims, Arabic for those who practice Islam, are in Pocatello. However, most of those Muslims are students.
“In summer when students go home, our community is tiny,” Hummel said.
He said about 50 to 100 permenant Muslims live in Pocatello.
But he said believers from all over eastern and southeastern Idaho, including Rexburg, travel to worship at the mosque.
Hummel said Friday services are required for practicing Muslims and the first services start about 1:20 p.m.
The second service for overflow is at 2:30 p.m.
“We pray five times a day, so at those various times of day you may find a sprinkling of Muslims coming to the mosque to perform prayer and go home,” Hummel said.
Hummel said the first service is in Arabic and the second service is in English, and all are welcome to visit.
“For the people who are open to learn about Islam, they are welcome,” Hummel said.
He said they usually have about 4 or 5 visitors every week.
“There has never been a resource before where you could go and talk to someone who practices Islam,” Hummel said.
Hummel said said he thinks having the mosque in Pocatello will help facilitate discussion because members of the community have a place to come and ask questions.
“[Visitors] have to be civil. We don’t want people who are screaming and shouting,” he said.
There are 110 Muslims per 100,000 people in Idaho, according to the Huffington Post.
“We have a special viewing room for non-Muslims and non-observant Muslims to come and observe prayer services if they choose,” Hummel said. “You don’t have to set an appointment. Just drop by.”