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Salt Lake's Bosnian Community Holds Mosque Open House

Julia Ritchey, KUER
Members of the Islamic Society of Bosniaks in Utah hold a traditional coffee and sweets room during an open house on Saturday, Dec. 10.

The Islamic Society of Bosniaks in Utah held their first open house over the weekend to invite community members to pray and eat at their newly renovated mosque in the Fairpark neighborhood.

In a brightly painted green and yellow room, Dzemila Music serves dates and a potent traditional Bosnian coffee in ornate silver dishes.


“This is our table, so we’re kneeling and we eat here — and everybody eats from one dish,” she says. “This is not a souvenir for us; that's our dishes we use for making food and coffee and things like that.”


Music came to Utah in 1996 as a refugee, one of several thousand Bosniaks who would eventually resettle here during and after the Bosnian War.


Alija Music is president of the Islamic Society of Bosniaks in Utah. When he and the others first moved to Salt Lake, he says, they would pray at mosques run by other immigrants.


Over the years, as their population grew, they were able to form their own congregation, and eventually, buy their own building in 2009. Saturday’s open house was held to allow people to learn about their culture and beliefs.


“The idea is to grow this into something bigger, more profound,” says Music. “And we are so lucky we got such a good response today; many people came today.”


Credit Julia Ritchey, KUER
The newly renovated exterior of the Bosniak mosque in the Fairpark neighborhood of Salt Lake. Renovations began in March and cost about $200,000 to add a new facade and minaret to the brick building.

Music also wants to show off their extensively renovated exterior, a process that took more than eight months and $200,000. The brick building now has a smooth gray and burnt red facade. It’s crowned by a minaret, illuminated by green bulbs and a small gold crescent spire.


Mother and daughter Carolynn and Sarai Lambert posed for a picture in front of the mosque's entrance. They’re both Mormon and came to check out a different slice of life in Utah.


“I really just admire other faith traditions and cultures, and I love to learn about them, and I love the things that we share in common,” says Carolynn.


Alija Music says they’ve been fortunate that despite the anti-Muslim rhetoric that emerged from Donald Trump’s campaign, they have yet to receive any verbal or written threats as some other American mosques have.


Several hundred people attended Saturday's gathering, a turnout that has encouraged Music to hold more community events in the near future.



Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.
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