Creating Community in a New Land
The Bosnian Islamic Cultural Center (BICC) was founded in 2000 to provide a mosque for the large community of Bosnians in West Ridge and the surrounding area, where Bosnians can gather, socialize, and educate their children and themselves. BICC is more commonly known as the Western Mosque because of its location at 7022 North Western Avenue.
The first imam, Muhamed Brka, worked with the community to build this mosque. He served for three years and was succeeded by Imam Kemal Karic. Imam Karic initiated the purchase of graveyard space in the Bohemian National Cemetery for community members and was able to acquire 400 plots for the Bosnian community.
Preserving Traditions From Home
During Ramadan in 2012, the mosque’s members asked Muriz Mesic, the imam of the Hadzijska Mosque in Sarajevo, to come to BICC, and he now serves as the religious leader of the congregation. Upon his arrival, he initiated muqabalah, or the daily recitation of ten to twenty pages of the Qur’an during Ramadan by a Hafiz, the name for one who has memorized the Qur’an. He has also acquired more graveyard plots at the Bohemian National Cemetery, bringing the total to 1,000.
Addressing New Challenges
The mosque is home to more than 700 members and has programs to serve all segments of its community, striving to foster a sense of belonging for its members. Congregants attend the five daily prayers and Friday prayers at the mosque, participate in iftars or dinners to break the fast during Ramadan and take classes to learn to read and memorize the Qur’an. The women’s group Bosnjakinja, created in 2012, organizes educational and cultural events, funds students in Bosnia, holds fundraising events, and participates in other BICC activities.
Teaching the Next Generation
BICC also aims to educate its youth. In 2012, Mrs. Amina Sendic-Mesic established the Bosnian School to teach children the Bosnian language, history, culture and traditions. She and her fellow teacher, Mrs. Enisa Omerovic, teach over 100 students in a school that receives suppport from both the Ministry of Civil Service in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the General Consulate of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Chicago as well as from members of the congregation.
Younger members of the congregation attend classes on Islamic studies for children, but also have opportunities to have fun. The Bosnian Youth of Chicago was founded in 2013 and builds friendships with excursions such as hiking, skiing, and ice-skating trips, as well as by engaging the young people in regular community service activities.
Building for the Future
BICC’s building has become too small for its growing membership so the community has been raising funds since 2016 to build a new center under the name “Camil ef. Avdic” (ef. is short for efendija, the Bosnian term for Imam) to honor Imam Camil Avdic, the first Bosnian Imam in Chicago in 1957.