May 7, 2007

A show of Islamic faith and goodwill

Posted on Sun, May. 06, 2007

A show of Islamic faith and goodwill

Members from mosques throughout South Florida came together on April 21 for a celebration that affirmed their pride in being American Muslims and their participation in a nonprofit organization that assists people of all faiths.
About 400 people turned out for the dinner, marking the 10th anniversary of the American Muslim Association of North America.

The event, a fundraiser for the Miami-based group, filled the hall inside the Darul Uloom Institute at 7050 Pines Blvd. in Pembroke Pines.

Organizers received around $32,000 in pledges and donations, said Sofian Abdelaziz Zakkout, director of the American Muslim Association of North America (AMANA).

Proceeds will go to the group's many programs, which seek to build friendships and understanding, Zakkout said.

In South Florida, there are about 70,000 Muslims and 25 Islamic centers. AMANA has about 1,000 members in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, along with countless volunteers from many local mosques. The organization has branches in California Connecticut, Georgia, Michigan and Puerto Rico as well, Zakkout said.

AMANA's projects have been varied, ranging from providing blankets and tents to tsunami victims in Indonesia to collecting food for the victims of Hurricane Wilma in Broward County.

Other outreach efforts include an annual festival with food and music that draws thousands of visitors, Zakkout said. Volunteers also feed the homeless in downtown Miami, provide counseling, and work with many local community organizations, Zakkout said.

The group also provides free copies of the Koran, prayer books and pamphlets in many languages, said Sheik Basheerulla, a member of the organization who came to the fundraiser with his wife, Bibi. Educating non-Muslims is important, he said.

''I want people to know the truth about Islam,'' said Basheerulla, of Coral Springs. ``The way it's been portrayed in the media, it's not that.''

His comments were echoed by many of the speakers at the dinner. Imam Roshan Ali of the Nurul Islam mosque in Cooper City motivated those attending to be a ``source of benefit for the community.''

''Let the world out there see who we are,'' Ali said.

People listened intently to the imams representing different mosques from Kendall to West Palm Beach. The occasion brought out women dressed in long tunics with matching pants, called shalwars. Others wore long gowns, known as jilbabs. Outfits were accompanied by traditional head coverings -- women donned hijabs, men wore kufis.

Rasheed Mahamad, a vice president of AMANA, was pleased with the turnout.

It was the first time the group had an anniversary fundraising dinner, he said.

Nassar Mustafa, another vice president, said the organization works hard on behalf of Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

''We are friendly with everyone,'' Mustafa said.

© 2007 Miami Herald Media Company.

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