LOCAL NEWS Published Sunday, September 23, 2001, in the Akron Beacon Journal
Muslims, visitors gather at Falls center
Beacon Journal staff writer
CUYAHOGA FALLS: More than 100 Summit County Muslims and visitors from the community gathered for dinner to benefit a religious school and victims of the recent terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
At the eighth annual fund-raiser for Faith Islamic Academy at the Islamic Community Center last night, a group of elementary students recited for proud parents. ``Allah made the stars and Allah made me.''
They also sang religious songs. One, Oh, Mohammed, the final messenger, was set to the tune of (Oh, My Darlin') Clementine.
The short recital was the first from full-time students. Day school classes for kindergarten through third grade students began for the first time Sept. 4. Classes for older children and adults are conducted at the center on Steels Corners Road in Arabic on Saturdays and English on Sundays. A five-year plan for the 17-acre site also includes housing for senior citizens and recreation facilities. Organizers hope eventually to fund a Muslim high school.
School board committee member Yaser Dhaher said that 7 percent to 10 percent of the proceeds from the event will be sent to aid victims of the Sept. 11 terrorism. ``This was all planned a month ahead, but then we shifted gears when we heard of the terrible tragedy,'' he said.
The attack on the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon was on the minds of everyone at the dinner.
Islamic Center President Abu Maraq criticized the violence in his remarks.
``We are Americans first,'' he told the group. ``Muslims believe in peace, in justice. We don't believe in killing and maiming of innocent people.''
A handful of neighbors from outside the Muslim faith bought tickets to the dinner from Suleman Azim. Others stopped by just to make a donation.
James and Barbara Geisey of Kent came to show support for Americans of a different faith. Both practice the Bahai religion.
``After the bombing, we were worried that maybe people would be against them,'' said Barbara Geisey, 59. ``We wanted them to know we believe Muslims are religious, law-abiding people.''
``We . . . thought it was a good time to make a connection to the Islamic community'' said James Geisey, 63. ``We know almost nothing about them.''
Dania Darazi is a weekend student at the school. After years of Sunday classes in English she is learning the Quran in Arabic. ``I'm memorizing the Holy Book. I'm doing OK with it, and I like it,'' she said. ``But I would enjoy having Saturday off.''
Classes at Stanton Middle School in Kent on Sept. 11 were difficult for the 13-year-old eighth-grader. Younger kids said mean things to her, she said, and the images of the burning buildings made her cry.
By the end of the day, she was home with sisters whose classes at Kent State University had been canceled out of fear Muslim students might be harassed.
``My teachers were really great and supportive, but it was hard,'' Dania said. ``You have to keep it to the side. You have to learn even more.''
Kymberli Hagelberg can be reached at 330-478-6000 (Ext. 14) or 1-800-478-5445 or firstname.lastname@example.org
©Copyright 2001, The Beacon Journal