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From Hot Dogs to Prayers: Neighbors Welcome Mosque to Western Avenue

By Benjamin Woodard | May 2, 2013 9:57am | Updated on May 2, 2013 3:20pm

WEST ROGERS PARK — Neighbors kicked off their shoes Wednesday night to get a first look at Faizan-e-Madina mosque on Western Avenue.

The mosque bought the property, former home of U Lucky Dawg and Fluky's hot dog stands, and completed a renovation to move its growing congregation into a space of its own.

After facing stiff community opposition when the plans surfaced in 2010, mosque leaders wanted to clear up any misconceptions they said the community harbored.

Mosque leaders told the gathered community members that many of the mosque's members had lived in the neighborhood for "over a decade" and needed a bigger space than their home of six years, two cramped storefronts near Ridge and Devon avenues.

"As many of you know, this was a restaurant," Rashid Motivala said with a smile.

The comment drew laughs from the group of about 30, finding humor in the idea that the now clean, pleasant mosque was once the neighborhood's biggest pusher of greasy hot dogs.

You can see "all the work we've done," said Motivala, an original member of the mosque and designated spokesman.

Motivala assured neighbors that the mosque would be "an open book" and that people from all religions would be welcome inside.

"We believe in the same God that is the God of Moses and the God of Jesus," he said.

Motivala also assured that the U Lucky Dawg hot dog sign, featuring a dancing wiener, would be covered.

"It's an eyesore," he added.

Muhammad Salam, a Chicago Police officer and member of the congregation, said he's lived and worked in West Rogers Park for most of his life.

The 60-year-old said that although the mosque is open daily, most members come for the Friday prayer, and many of them also frequent other mosques in the area.

Barry Greenberg, the architect who designed the renovated space, said it took a long seven months to convert the hot dog stand into a mosque.

He blamed mixups at City Hall for the delays.

"When it came to [navigating] the politics of City Hall, it was all Rashid," said Greenberg.

The Rev. Jacki Belile, a Baptist minister who works to unite the charitable efforts of different religions in the community, also attended the mosque meet-and-greet.

"The most important thing is to learn from our Muslim leaders and take their lead," Belile said. She offered to help the congregation in any way she could.

As people laced up their shoes and trickled out of the mosque late Wednesday after a tour of the facility's washroom, library and prayer hall, Motivala held open the front door and thanked people for coming.

"So far, it looks like they're comfortable with us," said the 68-year-old Indian man. "It's good that they came in."