The holy land is 6,000 miles away and for now they worship in a strip mall. But whatever the hardship, the reclusion, the cold and the waiting, make no mistake about it, the Islamic faith is heading to Anchorage no matter what. Alaska’s first mosque has risen quietly over the last few years in a gravel lot in a South Anchorage commercial district, a neighbor to a Korean Presbyterian church, a couple of auto repair garages, a drive-through Chinese restaurant and a Sons of Norway hall.  The Islamic Community Center of Anchorage purchased the site for $600,000, Anchorage television station KTUU reported. [1b] The mosque is taking shape near a Sons of Norway Viking Hall, will eventually include a Sunday school and a community center. [1a] A few weeks ago, Sam Obeidi, vice president of the Islamic Community Center Anchorage Alaska, turned a key and pushed open the mosque’s door, flipping on a light in a hallway that smelled of drywall plaster and new carpet. Palestinian by birth, Obeidi came to Alaska as a teenager to join his father, a refugee, who settled in Anchorage in the 1960s. In those days, Muslims met and prayed in his father’s home. Obeidi’s family now owns a frame shop and gallery. He has been involved with the mosque-building project for the last five years of an effort that began 15 years ago.  Anchorage Muslims have so far raised $2 million to build the 15,000-square-foot facility, and must raise $1 million more before the prayer hall is completed and two minarets are placed on the mosque’s roof. This is our future,” said Osama Obeidi, one of the Muslim-Americans leading the building effort for the Islamic Community Center of Anchorage. “We have second-generation Alaskans now, and new people coming all the time. We need a place to call home.  The Islamic holy land may be more than 6,000 miles away, but Anchorage has increasingly become a destination for Muslims, who now number as many as 3,000 in the city, the ICCAA estimates. Fifteen years ago, Anchorage’s Muslim community was small enough to gather in an apartment for services. About seven years ago, the congregation began renting a 1,200-square-foot storefront in a strip mall. Over the last five years, its numbers have risen, mostly due to refugee-resettlement programs. The draw is partly economic — Alaska’s economy was barely touched by the recession — and partly connected to waves of government refugee resettlement in Alaska’s largest city. White non-Hispanics now make up just over half the population of Anchorage. The rest is made up of a diverse mix of cultures: Alaska Natives, Pacific Islanders, Asians, Africans and Hispanics. “They are white, they are black, they are brown,” Obeidi says. More than 100 languages are spoken in the Anchorage schools. That striking diversity is amplified among Muslims, who are far more likely to be immigrants and refugees. 
While many mosques in U.S. cities are tied to a single ethnic group, Friday prayers in Anchorage might draw Gambians, Pakistanis, Albanians, Somalis, Sudanese, Egyptians, Palestinians, Iraqis, Bangladeshis, Burmese, Russians and Malaysians, among others. The ICCAA is for now without an imam and the search for one must be executed carefully, he says, so as not to favor one language or culture over others. “We want somebody born in this country, raised in this country, who understands our mentality,” Obeidi says. Anchorage’s Muslim community is one of the most flexible in the United States, he says. “The reason is diversity,” he says.  Some of the funds to build the mosque came from the local community, but more came from Lower 48 states, including Texas, Oklahoma, Illinois and California. When it is completed, the facility will have room for a school, a large prayer hall, a community room and a library. The floors in the hall will be heated. Women will be able to attend services from a balcony or a private room, depending on the level of privacy they prefer. [Really? The Palestinian Muslim behind the mosque made sure women are not equal in the mosque and are required to sit separate and behind the men…some choice] 
Alaska’s mosque is part of an American mosque-building boom, meant to keep pace with the fast growth of the Muslim community. The Muslim population is expected to more than double, increasing from 2.6 million, or 0.8 percent of the total population, to 6.2 million, or 1.7 percent of total, by 2030, due to high birth rates and immigration, according to a report from the Pew Center for Religion and Public Life. That will make Muslims as common as Episcopalians or Jews are today. The mosque is perhaps the clearest sign yet that Islam in the U.S. is rapidly pushing beyond traditional population centers such as Detroit and Los Angeles.  As the number of American Muslims grows through both immigration and higher-than-average birthrates, domes and minarets are sprouting in areas as varied as the eastern mountains of Kentucky and Louisiana’s parishes. The building boom reflects American Muslims’ desire for a sense of permanence as their religion shifts from one mainly imported by immigrants to one practiced by their American-born children and grandchildren, Muslim leaders say.  The Muslim population in the U.S. is expected to more than double by 2030, to 6.2 million, according to a 2011 Pew Research Center study. By then, Muslims are expected to represent 1.7% of the U.S. population, making them as numerous as American Jews or Episcopalians today, the study says. By 2030 it’s likely to double that estimate with Obama’s preference for Muslim refugees and illegally importing millions of people from the Middle East and Africa. The Muslim population has grown it’s fastest since Muslims attacked America on 9/11. A 2011 survey of U.S. mosques found a 74% increase in the number of Muslim congregations established between 2000 and 2011, rising to 2,106 from 1,209. About 30% of those congregations built new mosques, said the report sponsored by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research and a coalition of Islamic organizations.