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Muslims Extend Open Arms to Central Florida Community


Karsceal Turner

Special to West Orlando News Online

Children had multiple ways to play together while expressing subtle message to adults. A muslim sister casually walks past. Karsceal Turner-MRS
Children had multiple ways to play together while expressing subtle message to adults. A muslim sister casually walks past. Karsceal Turner-MRS

Roles were reversed at the second Annual Muslim Women’s Dawa Program, where children taught the adults a lesson in unity, cooperation, and tolerance as they playing together.

This is the second year the event organized by the Muslim Women’s Association of Daytona Beach has reached out to the neighboring Central Florida community with the open house or “Dawah” program.

It was held at the Islamic Center of Daytona Beach located at 347 South Keech Street on Saturday, and ran from noon until 4:00 p.m. To the left of the Center was a large field filled with the sounds of laughter from the future leaders who were climbing towers, sliding down tall slides, and bouncing in the “bounce room.” A Choo-choo train made regular rounds around the play area. An Ice Cream Truck was on standby.

The program was designed to get the community better acquainted with the Muslim culture and provide greater understanding of the Islamic religion, given the air of mystery around the religion and the people whom observe it.

The Muslim Women’s Association is an internationally recognized organization according to event co-organizer Linda McGee. “This is all about unity, McGee said. “There are chapters in Russia and China, and many other places. We want the community to get to know us and become one united community.”

“With regards to this event, we can say mission accomplished,” said Michelly Zulfiqar. “The weather was great, our city commissioners and mayor attended. It was an overall a success. We want to organize more events of this caliber in the future, as a way of clearing up any miss-understandings about our culture.”

Former Rep. Dwayne Taylor, Mayor Derek Henry, Commissioners Kelly White of Zone 3, and Paula Reed of Zone 6 were all on hand in a show of support.

Taylor brought greetings to attendees. “I received a call from a good friend (Linda McGee), and jumped at another opportunity to support our community wherever needed,” Taylor said.

The Spain family made the trek from Deltona. Parents Darryl, 45, Monifah 35, are originally from The Bronx and Brooklyn, NY and are accustomed to the presence of Muslims in the community.

Spain said her son, Jahadii, 13, and daughter, Kayla, 9 thoroughly enjoyed the program, the fun and the food.

Islamic faith not exactly what people think

Although Christianity remains the forerunner among religious denominations in Volusia County, Catholicism, followed by Islam continues to gain more traction.

Jahaad Wingfield a practicing Muslim from Tampa expressed his views on the religion. “In Islam, we are taught to believe in the oneness of God (no trinity), all of his books, & all of his prophets. We are also taught and encouraged to be studious. True Muslims know the bible better than many Christians; old and new testaments. The allure for me is that Muslims are encouraged to learn other books front to back. I grew up in an Islamic household but wasn’t forced to practice, so I never did. But, in high school, I planned to tell my parents that I wasn’t going to follow their religion. I needed something firm to stand on as to why Christianity was a more suitable religion so I began studying. Only problem was, the more knowledge I gained, the closer I came to Islam.”

Between 300 and five hundred attended the early afternoon event which was hosted by Mosque members Habeeb Abdussalaam and Hussam Reziqa (Ali).

The program included remarks by Hassan Saboungi, president of the Islamic Center of Daytona Beach, an unveiling of the future site of the new Islamic Center by Dr. Saud Suleiman, call to prayer spoken in Arabic and explained in English, and then prayer by Imam Belal Shemman, (Imam is a religious leader) of the Islamic Center of D.B.

One particular highlight was the ethnic foods from around the world provided by various members of the mosque.

Sisters of the Islamic faith were eager to dispel some misconceptions about their faith.

“We want the community to feel welcome to interact with us. Our goal is to organize more activities as women in the Islamic community. We as women and sisters can not only participate but also initiate and organize,” Zulfiqar said.

She continued, “Certain aspects of the Islamic faith relate strongly to women and others to men. The Dawa program is meant to explain what Islam teaches and raise understanding,” she noted. Zulfiqar went on to dispel some other misconceptions: “We aren’t as conservative as people believe. We respect Christianity and Hinduism and other people’s faiths. We aren’t shut-ins or bigots, we mingle,” she mused.

According to the Islamic Center’s website located at a dawa is an invitation to Islam. The site also features links which help users with Arabic, learning the Qur’an, and other resources links and articles.

Muslims in Central Florida with Orlando roots

According to estimates by the Islamic Center of Central Florida, there are more than 40,000 Muslims in the Central Florida area. Public records research uncovered an estimated 2,500 Muslims in the Daytona Beach area as of 1990.

The Islamic Society of Central Florida (ISCF) was organized in the early 1980s with a handful of Muslim families which grew into a small dispersed community and acquired property on Goldenrod Road in Orlando. A small house served as the first unofficial Mosque as a new building was being constructed. By 2000, the Islamic Society of Central Florida had opened five additional Mosques including Masjid Al-Hakim (Wisdom) in Deltona, Masjid Al-Mumin (Righteous) in Titusville and Masjid Al-Rahim (the Dispenser of Mercy) in Pine Hills.

The Islamic Center of Daytona Beach is a separate organization.


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