an Astrodome proposal
After 9 years, I moved from Houston to central Wisconsin this past July, but there will always be a part of Texas - and Houston - in my blood from now on. So I stay abreast of local news and politics from Houston as best I can, mostly via Charles Kuffner. His ongoing coverage of the travails of the Astrodome redevelopment project has been fascinating, and dispiriting as well. The recent news that the Texans and the Rodeo are pretty much opposed to any hotel concept on the Dome site really bodes ill; as Charles puts it, any new plan needs to be "1) commercially feasible, 2) politically viable, and 3) not in conflict with the bidness of the Texans and the Rodeo." Otherwise, it seems that the demolition of the Dome is inevitable.
A crazy thought occurred to me. The old Compaq Center in downtown Houston was sold to Lakewood Church (of Joel Osteen fame) and is now fully renovated as a megachurch. Why not attempt something similar with the Astrodome, by making it into a mosque?
Houston has several public personalities who are also muslim who could rally the community and marshal outside support and resources to such a task. Notably, city councilman M.J. Khan, Mustafa Tameez, and retired basketball legend Hakeem Olajuwon. More to the point, Houston has an estimated muslim population of 250,000, and native Texan-style Islam is vibrant and growing - especially among the Latin community. A megamosque would become a focal point of Islam in Texas and serve as a valuable icon of outreach to the rest of the spiritual community. In addition to serving as home to the annual Eid al Fitr feast, the megamosque could also compete to bring the ISNA and other important annual conferences to Houston. While the megamosque would need to be an independent entity, it could certainly have relationships with existing muslim organizations like the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, the Katy Islamic Organization, etc. The potential for charity and disaster relief work and coordination is also immense.
This could all just be a pipe dream with no pragmatic reality. Still, it fires the imagination.