Four posts covering the affects of Islam on four American cities today. Begin.
Magic Muslim Kingdom. via Muslim community center Longwood: Florida’s first Muslim community center opens in Longwood – Orlando Sentinel.
Down an industrial street off State Road 434 in Longwood, a former warehouse has been converted into what is believed to be the first multipurpose Muslim community center in Florida.
“There is nothing like this in the state of Florida,” said Atif Fareed, chairman of the American Muslim Community Centers.
Fareed said similar centers exist in California, Minnesota, Ohio and New York, but for Central Florida the community center represents the next step in the development of the Muslim community.
The area has mosques and Muslim schools, but no center of gravity that offers a place for families to gather for prayer, exercise and education, Fareed said.
“People can worship, work out, play and socialize — all under one roof,” he said.
The 17,000-square-foot, olive-green building includes a prayer room, recreation area, fitness room, community-events room, classrooms, offices, kitchen, library and separate lounges and restrooms for women and men.
A grand opening of the center will be held Wednesday at noon.
“It’s an exciting time for us,” said Adnan Raja, a board member. “It’s a dream finally coming true.”
The Muslim population in metro Orlando has grown from 2,691 in 2000 to 27,939 in 2010, according to the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies. There are now 20 Muslim congregations spread across Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Lake counties, the association’s census of religions found.
The $1.2 million community center was paid for with donations raised by the American Muslim Community Centers, which formed in 2010. The organization is run by a 12-member board elected to three-year terms by members.
Fareed expects between 350-400 families to join the organization, each paying $50 a month with the goal of the center becoming self-sustaining. In addition to the membership fees, the center will charge for use of its facilities by families or organizations that normally would rent space at hotels.
“We are trying to get away from always asking for donations. We are trying to be a self-sufficient organization,” Fareed said.
The genesis for the center was the desire for a place where Muslim teenagers could congregate — other than shopping malls, Raja said. The Longwood center includes indoor basketball and racquetball courts, but also a dedicated place for video games. Plans include after-school and summer programs for children.”
Adam Hakim said he understands the need for such a place.
“I grew up in Central Florida and I didn’t know any Arab or Muslim kids. Now the younger generation will have more opportunities to meet people from all over the area,” said Hakim, 29, a construction-company manager.
The facility is youth-centered but will provide something for all ages, including a senior center for the elderly. Families will be able to celebrate everything from births to funerals in the center.
“One of our goals is to provide a place for our community to come together for birthdays, weddings and other celebrations,” Raja said.
In its recreation and religious orientation, the Muslim community center reminds Hakim of the YMCA before it became more of a fitness center than a Christian organization.
“The way I look at it, it’s like the YMCA,” he said, “minus the swimming pool.”
Plus the sharia, including segregation of Muslim women from the men. And Orlando taxi drivers also want sharia on the job.