The standing-room-only crowd of 120 believers yesterday listened to what it would take to reopen a West Philadelphia Islamic school and mosque: $156,000.
They didn't gasp.
In fact, in air charged with electricity, excited volunteers offered to help with education, legal research, construction or whatever was needed to reclaim Sister Clara Muhammad School and the Philadelphia Masjid at 47th Street and Wyalusing Avenue.
"It's a very joyous moment for us," Leon Shamsideen, a member of the newly elected mosque board, said after the 90-minute meeting.
"I'm very, very encouraged," said interim Imam Malik Mubashshir. "It's beautiful - lots of positive energy on the part of the believers. We're on the move. I'm excited."
In a crowded community room at 46th and Market streets, Rafiq Kalam Id-din, chairman of the school and mosque boards, said if 100 participants could find 10 people to donate $150 - at $50 a month, for the next three months - they could raise enough money to repair or replace the building's major systems: heating, plumbing, electricity and the roof.
If they could secure even one heating boiler, the mosque could be reopened for Jumah prayers, Id-din said. The three-story building was left in a shambles in the aftermath of the 30-year tenure of Imam Shamsud-din Ali.
Ali and his wife, Faridah, as the director and assistant director of the school, were convicted of racketeering in 2005 after using the school to conduct illegal money-making schemes for their personal gain.
Though sentenced to 87 months in federal prison, Ali is out on bail awaiting an appeal. His wife is serving a two-year jail term in the case in federal prison in Danbury, Conn.
In 2004, she also was convicted of 26 counts of fraud for operating an adult literacy program with "ghost teachers" at Sister Clara Muhammad School with money from Community College of Philadelphia. Her sentence of five years' probation was appealed by the government.
While they operated the building, four boilers that heated the building were removed, and utility bills were left unpaid: $2,400 for Peco, $2,200 for the Philadelphia Water Department, $2,700 for the Philadelphia Gas Works, and $150 for Verizon.
Ali's name was not mentioned at yesterday's meeting. Id-din only said: "Whatever happened, happened. That's the past."
Nevertheless, three security specialists in business suits were present in case Ali's loyalists attempted to disrupt the meeting, as they had three times during Jumah prayers last fall.
Id-din said that Khalilallah Aziz, a building contractor and longtime member of the mosque, would coordinate the construction by obtaining contracts with licensed, bonded contractors and coordinate other work by volunteers.
Aziz said a few members pooled their resources to hire a professional building inspector to find out "what needs to be done to get the building up and running," he said. "We want warranties with the work."
Aziz said he and the inspector went from the roof to the basement. While the building needs major systems, it is structurally sound.
Fatima Ali, a 50-year member of the Muslim community, said she was encouraged by the enthusiasm of younger believers and former Sister Clara Muhammad students, who want the school to reopen. Some graduates said they had master's and law degrees, or skills in other fields.
"We're on the right road, and we've got believers' support," said longtime member Marvin Sabir.