CAIRO - Despite hailing to different countries, a new Islamic center in Bronx borough in New York City is unifying American Muslims
of West African origin.
It has been a difficult, long road, Bakary Camara, 47, a member of the Islamic center told The New York Times.
Miraculously for us, our community has grown, coming together more than coming apart.
Bronx Muslims are awaiting the opening of the Islamic Cultural Center next year to help promote unity among members of the sizable community.
As the center was destroyed in a fire in 2009, Bronx Muslims, who come from West African countries, including Gambia, Guinea, Mali and Mauritania, joined hands to raise funds for rebuilding it.
The center, one of several in the Bronx, was built in an old nightclub by West African immigrants to perform their prayers.
But as it was gutted by the fire, Muslims are now struggling to build a new center to help perform their religious duties and promote bonds among members of the community.
They have raised one-third of the needed money for the three-million-dollar building.
The new center will feature sand-colored walls, an arched doorway and a minaret.
At 15,000 square feet, it will be more than three times the size of the old building.
The new center is expected to open next year's Ramadan.
According to a Queens College analysis of census data in 2010, 32,576 of the 1.4 million Bronx residents reported that they had been born in West Africa, up 76 percent from 2000.
The United States is home to an estimated Muslim minority of between six to seven million.
Aspiring to the new center, Bronx Muslims now use a temporary quarters to perform religious duties and promote community bonds.
The center unites us, Baba Jagana, an imam of the Makky Mosque, whose members belong to the center, told The New York Times.
In addition to prayers, Muslims host family and marriage counseling, after-school programs, Arabic classes and weddings at the temporary quarters.
Outside, the center's forest-green awning salvaged unharmed from the fire displays its name in English and Arabic.
We want our kids to know each other. The unity we have back home, we want them to know that here, said Jagana.
At one class, boys sat squeezed on the floor, with girls sitting in a separate room, to listen to Arabic lessons.
Try to live honestly, says one lesson on the board.
The best among us are the ones who learn to read and teach others.
The same space, however, sometimes causes annoyance among attendees
Worshippers await in long lines to perform ablution ahead of the prayers.
Services are sometimes delayed because worshipers, engaged in washing before prayer, need more time.
When too many people come, some have to pray on the sidewalk.We don't feel comfortable because the space is too small for us, said Mahamadou Soukouna, 42, an imam at the center.