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U Understanding Islam

Like a phoenix, a Florida Muslim community rises from the ashes

By Yusuf Nganga, For TC Palm, On 18 March 2019, Read Original
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In recent days, I have had the heart-wrenching experience of literally walking in the ashes of the old Islamic Center of Fort Pierce, Midway Road. This small, resilient Muslim community has endured anti-Muslim and xenophobic attacks that put us as Floridians and Americans to shame. They have experienced an escalating chain of hate crimes, a product in part of the barrage of bigotry and racist rhetoric permeating the social political environment in the Sunshine State and our nation.

This community experienced an array of discriminatory events such as people howling racist and profane words at them, and drivers who would deliberately swerve into standing water to soak them. These hateful behaviors escalated to a member of the community getting physically assaulted while going for morning prayers and, finally, to the despicable act of burning the Islamic Center.

As we stood amid the smell of the charred skeleton building, I could not help but be hopeful, knowing that most residents of Fort Pierce are tolerant people. Their solidarity was evident by their multiple expressions of love following the Sept. 11, 2016, arson. I know of Christian and Jewish religious leaders who sent messages.

I also learned of a cancer patient who publicly acknowledged the compassion and care shown to her by her Muslim physician, who is also the Imam of the burned mosque.

This Islamic Center now named House of the Believers refused hate as the norm of the day. The community rose from the ashes of intolerance and hate to reestablish a new house of worship that includes a school and a sporting facility. Thanks to their strength and faith, the Treasure Coast enjoys the blessings of a diverse community of worshipers capable of exercising our sacred constitutional right of freedom of religion and worship.

Yusuf Nganga, of Pembroke Pines, is CAIR-Florida’s community outreach and events coordinator. He is an undergraduate majoring in political science at Florida International University.

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