Dayton’s newest mosque to open; public and international guests expected

Retired Imam Celal Shahin stands inside the Osman Gazi mosque at 1508 Valley St. The mosque hosts its grand opening on Sunday. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

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Retired Imam Celal Shahin stands inside the Osman Gazi mosque at 1508 Valley St. The mosque hosts its grand opening on Sunday. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

The first official Ahiska Turkish mosque in many years has a grand opening in Old North Dayton on Sunday that is expected to attract dignitaries from across the globe and that is a testament to the strong growth of the local Turkish population.

But the Osman Gazi Mosque and Sunday’s celebration aren’t just for Turkish people or Muslims, leaders say.

The mosque, located at 1508 Valley St., is a public place that welcomes the entire community, and the goal is to unite people with interfaith events and activities, said Mirza Mirza, who is the secretary on Osman Gazi’s board of directors.

“We want to create something that is multicultural, multilingual, and gets everyone together,” he said.

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Osman Gazi’s grand opening is at 1 p.m. Sunday, and festivities include a picnic in a park owned by the mosque and a prayer service.

Local leaders, out-of-town guests and religious representatives and consul from Turkey will be in attendance. The public is invited and encouraged to come.

People have prayed at the Valley Street building since it was first purchased by Osman Gazi in 2014. The building was formerly a funeral home that had been vacant for years.

But using donations, Osman Gazi has transformed what was an eyesore into an eye-catching house of worship.

The exterior of the building is turquoise, with green trim. The inside has Ottoman Empire-style designs, featuring colorful tile and turquoise carpet that were hand-crafted in Turkey.

A gold chandelier hangs from the ceiling. On the ceiling is written the “99 names of god.”

The walls are covered in calligraphy, and entryway arches have been painted to resemble roman stone.

More than $500,000 was invested into the prayer spaces, and that doesn’t count other projects.

“We tried to put a 1,000-year history in this house,” Mirza said.

Osman Gazi’s investment in that part of Old North Dayton is far from over.

Leaders purchased an old church building across the street that it is using as a school .

The school hosts Saturday and Sunday classes for children on the Koran and Islam. Right now, the school is open only to Turkish children and a couple of kids from Somalia.

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But once the building is renovated, possibly by next year, classes will be opened up to everyone, Mirza said. Also, the school plans to host after-school programming, such as sport leagues and other recreational activities.

The church and school have a significant amount of green space that leaders hope to use for barbecues and other community events.

The mosque has taken years to build because there were fewer Ahiska Turkish families in the Dayton region several years ago, and families often have limited incomes shortly after relocating here, Mirza said.

But the Dayton area has more than 1,000 Ahiska Turkish families now, according to some estimates, that is concentrated in Old North Dayton.

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