By Masood Rab, MMNS
Toledo–November 15–Imagine a Muslim community organization starting from a small house purchased by a few students near the University of Toledo for performing the daily prayers in year 1979 and progressing from a few hundred square feet building to a sprawling campus consisting of many buildings and over 50 thousand square feet of space on 14 acres of land.
This is just what happened to Masjid Saad of Toledo in year 2007. Unbelievable, a dream – one may say.
â€œIf itâ€™s a dream, please donâ€™t wake me up. Let me enjoy this awhile,â€ said Dr. Abed Alo, Chairman MSF Board of Trustees in the opening remarks at the grand opening ceremony and open house of the new facility on West Alexis Road, Sylvania, Ohio, on November 10, 2007. The new campus has three buildings, one for the masjid and elementary school, one for middle and high schools, science lab, computer lab and gym, and one for daycare. The outdoor area includes playgrounds and athletic fields. The three buildings are electronically linked and networked to share audio and visual systems. The prayer area in the masjid can accommodate about 1,200 people and most importantly has ample parking; if 500 spaces can be considered ample parking.
The present enrollment in the full time school is 170 students between pre-K to 12th grade, with 40 in high school and remaining in elementary and middle school. The weekend school has 120 registered students for Saturday and Sunday classes. Masjid duties are shared between two imams, Imam Achmet Sallie and Imam Ismail Azzouni.
The MSF is the parent-body of Masjid Saad, the full-time Toledo Islamic Academy and the weekend Al-Bayan School. The current property was purchased from a church in Sylvania at the outskirts of Toledo, a border town between Michigan and Ohio. Instead of converting the place of worship to a housing complex or retail outlet, the church management sold the property to MSF for $2.7 Million, thus ensuring the sanctity of the place of worship. The church itself moved to a much larger facility indicating a dynamic upward mobility of religious organizations in Ohio.
The open house and grand opening ceremony of MSF campus was a rare public relation event that brought local non-Muslim and Muslim community members, Muslim community leaders from neighboring communities of Ann Arbor, Canton, Ypsilanti, Columbus, etc., public officials from police, fire, FBI and elected officials or their representatives. As Imam Achmet Sallie pointed out in his presentation during the delicious dinner activities, â€œImpossible is inevitable.â€ He said that America is a land of upturns; Catholics gaining acceptance into the mainstream from being discriminated; Jews from downright prejudicial treatment to a position of power and control. This all happened in a matter of decades. He is optimistic that the current spate of hate activities and â€œIslamophobiaâ€ in America will be overtaken by â€œIslamophiliaâ€. â€œI have a dream,â€ he said on an evening of dreams on the grand opening event, â€œA slight slur against a Muslim will be considered a felony in America.â€
The MSF facility had witnessed Islamophobia earlier when the church facility was being converted into its current usage as masjid and school by MSF. Vandals spray-painted swastikas on the facility doors and trees and painted a â€œWhite Powerâ€ slogan on a truck in the parking lot. The MSF and school members went into a PR campaign and invited Toledo area officials including police, fire and FBI, and neighbor residents to a dinner. The US Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur from Toledo, a member of Democratic Party, visited the masjid and said, â€œWe wrap our arms around you todayâ€ to the MSF and Muslim community. That set up the tone of friendly feelings between the non-Muslim neighbors and the Muslim community members of MSF facility.
Islamophobia or Islamophilia? Muslim communities in America need to look into the MSF efforts for openness and transparent operations as a role model.
Visit new MSF campus facility at 5225 West Alexis Rd., Sylvania, OH 43560 or call: 419-882-3339 for information.