CAIRO – Considering it as the cornerstone of their community, Hampton Muslims in the southern Atlantic American state of Virginia have marked the 30th anniversary of their successful Islamic center.
"We are a part of the community," Ahmed Noor, a trustee of the mosque who is also an aerospace engineering professor at Old Dominion University, told Daily Press on Monday, January 6.
"They didn't know us as strangers."
Arriving in 1971, Noor and his wife Zizi, were among the first Muslims to reach the area in the 19970s.
This fact changed when they were contacted by an Indian Muslim family who called the Noors after finding their name in the phone book.
The Noors, who are Egyptian, bonded with the family over their common faith, and soon, a small group of Muslim families began meeting regularly in each other's living rooms.
As the number of Muslims grew, the mosque dream came to the Muslim community by the mid-1970s when they bought a land on Tide Mill Lane and started building the mosque.
Today, the mosque includes members from about three dozen countries.
The project, which was funded through donations from members of the local Muslim community and Saudi naval personnel stationed at Little Creek naval base at different stages of the process, wrapped up in November 1983.
Building their first worshipping house, Muslims began hosting outreach events and dinners to give people the opportunity to learn about their faith.
Moreover, members of the mosque were engaged in outreach efforts with local churches and synagogues over the years, as well as in citywide organizations such as the Hampton Citizens Unity Commission, which seeks to foster understanding among diverse groups.
Michele Woods Jones, the executive director of the commission, said her organization has been working with the mosque for 16 years, and said the two organizations have had a "positive and lasting relationship."
"They are a congregation that has been receptive and warm and welcoming to those who are of Christian faith and different ethnicities," Jones said.
Along with interfaith gatherings, the Muslim community tried to offer help by addressing the practical needs of the local community they live in.
"As a Muslim, what can someone do to alleviate suffering?" Noor said of the motivation behind those projects.
The congregation has done that in a number of ways, from hosting health fairs to creating a website called the Help Ecosystem, where visitors can search for food, clothing, medical and other services in each of Hampton Roads' major cities.
The mosque has also helped the increasing community to face the growing challenges pertaining to their faith over the past three decades.
During weekend school, where attendees learn about Islam, Noor uses PowerPoint presentations that are put together with the help of his wife.
He also hopes to engage the youth through tools such as viewable lectures, avatars and a Qur’an with a smart pen.
Noor sees them as a way to enhance the mosque as a "learning center for our generation and future (generations) to learn more about their religion."
Neirmen Alzubi, a member of the mosque, moved to Virginia with her family four years ago and has been attending worship services there since.
"You can just be who you are," Alzubi, who decided to wear hijab, or Islamic headscarf,after a discussion with Noor, said.
For the next 30 years of the mosque and beyond, Noor looks forward to teaching others about his faith and being a positive force in the greater community.
"That's what I'm hoping, more interaction with the community, to work with the community at large."
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