With a population of over 1.3 million, Adelaide is not only the capital of South Australia, but it is also one of our nation’s most beautiful and scenic cities.
For some reason (and I don’t know why), Adelaide is often considered a ‘poor relation’ in comparison to Australia’s busiest and most populous cities – Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane – carrying a stigma of being “too quiet” and not the most progressive of places.
Indeed Perth (2019 population of 2 million) has ‘leap-frogged’ Adelaide in terms of a number of inhabitants over recent decades and while it’s not uncommon to hear people say, “I’m moving to Perth”, when was the last time a friend or workmate revealed to you, “I’m relocating to Adelaide”….!!??
One man who has bucked that trend is a dynamic community leader and my close friend Ahmed Bassal, who moved to the ‘City of Churches’ several years ago.
Ahmed and I travelled together to Togo in Africa last October with the MATW team, where we marvelled at the amazing legacy leftover there by our late, great brother Ali Banat, founder of the MATW Project.
(If you haven’t already read it, there is a separate article on our journey to Africa on this website, headed: “Ali Banat’s Legacy Changed My Life”.)
Just prior to COVID-19, it was my great pleasure to jump on a plane and head to South Australia to spend some time with Ahmed in the city he now calls home.
As I’ve already mentioned, Adelaide is a beautiful place.
As per its nickname, it almost seems as though there is a church on every street corner of the CBD, and if you’ve ever watched the cricket or the AFL on television, you would know that the aerial camera shots of the city invariably capture spectacular footage of these splendid-looking places of worship.
I did note with some sadness during my visit to Adelaide though that many of these buildings are no longer being used for their intended purpose.
With traditional western religions experiencing a decline in numbers over recent times, some of these venues have become redundant, with church buildings being sold off and converted into offices, doctors’ surgeries, shops and other businesses.
Thankfully, we would never allow that to happen to our beautiful masjids and to this end, Adelaide is actually the home of Australia’s oldest permanent mosque, the Central Adelaide Mosque – built in 1888 by the descendants of Afghan cameleers and definitely a place you must visit the next time you are in the city planned in the early 1800s by Colonel William Light.
Another huge highlight of my trip to Adelaide was visiting the thriving Islamic Information Centre of South Australia (IICSA).
Currently located at 53 Henley Beach Rd Mile End, the IICSA is an amazing complex which attracts people of our faith of all ages.
The Centre provides all kinds of excellent services.
There are 10 classrooms, an information desk, meeting rooms for seminars and a masjid, of course.
While mainly servicing adults during the week, it is a major hub for the kids on weekends where boys and girls of all ages can take lessons on the Qur’an and how to pray, learn Arabic, take up new hobbies and crafts or visit the games room, decked out with bean bag chairs and video games and iPads available.
Most of the classrooms are formatted so that the kids can sit around one big table for discussions, rather than a traditional classroom setting (ie, individual desks).
In many cases, the youngsters are taught by tutors not that much older than themselves, who are ex-IICSA students.
All of the teachers at the complex (of which Ahmed Bassal is one) are volunteers.
“It’s a great place, the biggest Da’wah centre in South Australia by far, and a place very close to my heart,” Ahmed told me.
“But it is in such great demand that we can’t fit all the people in and now the various classes and other activities are spread across three separate locations.
“Obviously this situation is not ideal so IICSA is currently in the process of purchasing a new, massive complex where we will be able to accommodate all of our services under the one roof.”
Just a stone’s throw away from the current Mile End complex, Ahmed also gave me a guided tour of IICSA’s headquarters to be.
To say that the new complex took my breath away would be a massive understatement.
A former medical centre built along the same lines as a private hospital, the building has approximately 40 rooms of all sizes: prayer spaces, meeting rooms and classrooms as well as a very private sisters-only swimming pool.
The upgraded amenities that the new site offers will allow the Islamic youth of Adelaide the chance to express their talents in the centre’s growing number of projects, while reverts will be provided with the great opportunity to discover more about their new faith.
Of course, it goes without saying that the beautiful masjid which will be constructed on the grounds will be the focal point of the new complex.
It is imperative that a new and very large masjid be built in Adelaide as the city’s previously mentioned Central Adelaide Mosque is no longer able to cater for the growing number of Muslims – and being heritage listed, major renovations/extensions are not permissible.
This amazing piece of real estate which IICSA has negotiated to purchase for approximately $3.3 million would surely be valued at $10 million in Sydney and the beauty of its interior is that once freshly painted and newly carpeted, the venue will be up and running almost as soon as the formalities have been completed.
“IICSA’s offer to buy the new property has been accepted but because of COVID-19, the settlement period has been extended until next year,” Ahmed explained.
“In the interim, we are endeavouring to raise further funding towards the purchase through our various social media platforms, as well as selling merchandise and classroom sponsorships.”
So the next time you hear anybody speaking negatively about Adelaide, you might want to set them straight!
It’s a beautiful city with lovely people and some awesome, historical places to visit.
In terms of Islam, I found the community to be very friendly…..and very united in that worshippers of different backgrounds will all attend the same mosque, unlike in Sydney and some of our other major cities.
And as for the new IICSA…. I promise you that it will be a real eye-opener and a complex that all Muslims will be extremely proud of.
Watch my visit to Adelaide here:
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