BY KARSCEAL TURNER
SPECIAL TO THE DAYTONA TIMES
Michelly Zulfiqar, a board member of the Muslim Women’s Association of Daytona Beach, say the organization’s mission was accomplished on Saturday as hundreds attended a program designed to better acquaint residents with the Muslim culture.
Saturday marked the second year the Muslim Women’s Association has reached out to the community by hosting an open house or “Dawa” program.
Another purpose of the program, held at the Islamic Center of Daytona Beach at 347 S. Keech St., was to offer an understanding of the Islamic religion since there is an air of mystery concerning Islam and the people who observe it.
Several hundred people attended the afternoon event on April 13, which was hosted by Mosque members Habeeb Abdussalaam and Hussam Reziqa.
“With regards to this event, we can say mission accomplished, Zulfiqar remarked. “It was overall a success. We want to organize more events of this caliber in the future as needed as a way of clearing any misunderstandings about our culture.’’
‘All about unity’
The Muslim Women’s Association is an internationally recognized organization, according to event co-organizer Linda McGee.
“This is all about unity, McGee noted. “There are chapters in Russia and China, and many places. We want the community to get to know us and become one united community.”
State Rep. Dwayne Taylor, Daytona Beach Mayor Derek Henry along with city 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 (McGee) and jumped at another opportunity to support our community wherever needed,” Taylor said.
‘Know the Bible’
Jahaad Wingfield, a practicing Muslim from Tampa, expressed his views on the religion to the Daytona Times. “In Islam, we are taught to believe in the oneness of God (no Trinity), all of his books and 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.”
Prayers and plenty of play
Saturday’s 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, a call to prayer spoken in Arabic and explained in English, and then prayer by Imam Belal Shemman of the Islamic Center of Daytona Beach. An imam is a religious leader.
To the left of the center on Saturday was a large field filled with the sound of laughter from children, who were climbing towers, sliding down tall slides, and enjoying a bounce house. A choo-choo train made regular rounds around the play area. An ice cream truck was on standby.
The Spain family made the trek from Deltona. Parents Darryl, 45, Monifah 35, are originally from The Bronx and Brooklyn, New York, 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.
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 cannot only participate but also initiate and organize,” Zulfiqar said.
“Certain aspects of the Islamic faith relate strongly to women and others to men,” she noted. “The Dawa program is meant to explain what Islam teaches and raise understanding.’’
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 (http://ic-db.weebly.com/index.html), a Dawa is an invitation to Islam. The site also features links that help users with Arabic and learn the Qur’an. The site also contains other resources links and articles.
Central Florida history
There are more than 40,000 Muslims in the Central Florida area, according to estimates by the Islamic Center of Central Florida. Public records research uncovered an estimated 2,500 Muslims in the Daytona Beach area as of 1990.
The Islamic Society of Central Florida was organized in the early 1980s with a handful of Muslim families. It 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 the year 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.