The Winona Islamic Center building may be history, but just three days after it burned, center members are already creating a new future.
Mohamed Elhindi, president of the center’s board of directors, said Monday that “absolutely we will be rebuilding, and Winona will have an Islamic Center.”
The board has been meeting daily since the early Friday fire that destroyed the center and at least one other building on E. Third Street, and it will take some time still to figure out what a new center will look like, or where it will be located, he said.
Elhindi said the building was insured, but it doesn’t appear that the policy will cover the full losses. So the center has created a fund at Eastwood Bank, hoping to collect donations for the rebuilding effort.
The center has served more than 400 people, many of them college students, since it was created in 1993 as the first in the state outside the Twin Cities metro area, Elhindi said. It was more than a place to worship, serving as a community center and gathering place where area Muslims met and got to know each other.
That service, he said, needs to and will continue.
In the meantime, members’ most pressing concern is where they will meet for worship.
But it’s really not much of a concern, Elhindi said, after numerous Winona-area churches reached out to the center to offer space, beginning with Central Lutheran Church, where members met just hours after the flames rising above their building were extinguished.
The center received so many offers, Elhindi said, that members now plan to meet at a different church each week for the time being. Members will meet for prayer both Friday and Sept. 27 at First Congregational Church, he said.
The center plans to notify members of locations each week as they change; the locations also will be published in the Daily News.
Police and fire officials continued to stress Monday that there is no evidence that foul play was involved in the fire. It likely will take investigators several days to determine the cause.
Elhindi said he’s fielded occasional questions from people wondering whether the fire was set maliciously, and each time, he said, he’s laughed them off.
“It’s just not the nature of Winona,” he said. “There’s no reason to believe somebody caused this issue.
“The support we get from this community is unbelievable.”