(Photo courtesy of the Mankato Islamic Center)
Mankato’s Muslim residents now have a new mosque to call home.
Until recently, the only mosque in town was located inside a small, nondescript building set up in the late 1990’s.
“There was really no parking. It was leaking at the roof. It had no windows,” said Abdi Sabrie, a leader in the Somali community, whose family moved to the area two years ago after living in Atlanta for 20 years. “It was very cramped and small. It was really not serving the community well.”
Late last month, after raising $50,000 for the down payment of the new center, Somali and Muslim community leaders bought a three-story, historic building in town to house the Mankato Islamic Center.
The new center is already open, and includes a prayer room, and several other spaces for community classes and a library, Sabrie said.
“It’s going to be a community center in addition to serving the faith needs of the community,” he said, adding that volunteers have been working to complete minor repairs on some of the rooms of the new center.
For years, the greater Mankato area has hosted international residents, mainly students studying at the Minnesota State University campus. But in the last decade, the area has attracted thousands of East African refugees and Latin American immigrants who are putting down roots and calling Mankato home.
The demographic change has come fast for the area. Since 2000, the non-white population in Blue Earth County and neighboring Nicollet County has increased by nearly 50 percent, from 3,186 to 4,770. Most of the growth has been from refugee and immigrant families. Officials estimate Blue Earth County alone is now home to as many as 500 refugee families.
For Sabrie, the new mosque is a sign the community is here to stay.
“The community is really very excited,” he said.