Special Report: Muslims Find Welcoming Home in Mid-Missouri

7 years 8 months 1 week ago Wednesday, November 10 2010 Nov 10, 2010 Wednesday, November 10, 2010 9:06:27 AM CST November 10, 2010 in News

COLUMBIA - Being different can sometimes be hard. Ask Rafa Nizam and he’ll tell you, "I feel having different skin color does sometimes make you feel alienated from everyone else." Nizam, a freshman at the University of Missouri, grew up in Columbia as part of the city's ever-growing Muslim population. For him, growing up both Muslim and American has, at times, been somewhat difficult. "It's an everyday struggle. It’s an everyday task to reconcile the two," Nizam said.

But ask him about his experience growing up in Columbia, and you’ll hear only good things.

“It’s been nice. It’s been pretty calm. It’s a very laid back lifestyle--nothing too hectic.”

Chances are, if you ask Muslims in this community about their experiences living here, you’ll probably hear an overwhelming number of positive responses. That’s because, despite all the anti-Islamic sentiment brewing around the country, they say Columbia has remained an island of peace.

Dr. Rezwan Islam, a member of the Islamic Center of Central Missouri, believes it has something to do with the character of people in the city.

“Most of Columbia is very educated. There are a lot of universities here, a lot of professionals here, and they understand in terms of judging you by who you are,” Islam said.

Rafa Nizam’s father is the former president of the ICCM. Dr. Rashed Nizam, thinks the center's history within the community is a big reason why things have remained calm all these years.

“The building was completed in 1983, but effort went even before” Rashed Nizam said.

“There were only five families from different parts of the world. They came here as some undergrad, some master's, and some Ph.D. students. And two of the Ph.D. students took the initiative of leadership, because as Muslims, we are obligated to pray in a mosque,” Nizam said.

The students' first prayer meetings started in what is now known as Tiger Hotel. But when the number of members grew too large for the venue, the group attempted to relocate to the university.

“So initially they tried to rent a place in the university, but could not use this university because state and religion I think, doesn’t go together," Nizam said.

So with a little help in the form of donations, the group bought land in a then underdeveloped downtown area, and went to work.

“They were able to buy this land, and eventually they filled the land,” Rashed Nizam explained. “This was actually very filthy and nobody used to come here to this part of this town.”

Finally in 1983, the Islamic Center of Central Missouri was complete, making it the first and only mosque in Columbia. According to Rashed Nizam, it was one of the earliest in the country.

But a lot has happened from the time when the mosque first opened its doors. In 2004, the center got some unwanted attention when the FBI targeted some members of the mosque as part of a terrorism-funding scheme based at the Islamic American Relief Agency office in Columbia.  

“The FBI suspected that IARA in Columbia was giving funds to terrorist organizations”, said Rafa Nizam. “Maybe something ended up in the wrong place, or maybe they were falsely accused, I don’t know what the case is, but they were shut down because of this.”

Despite this, the mosque has continued to take an active role in the community and members said, promote good judgment.

“We are very active in several community programs,” Rashed Nizam said. “That’s where we got started.”

The center interacts with the community in a number of different ways, from open houses that explain more about Islam and the culture, to community-based activities like the crop walk or volunteering at the soup kitchen.

And with Columbia’s Muslim population continuing to grow, Rafa Nizam believes it is important for everyone to work together to understand one another’s differences.

“Even though people may not know they are working with, or studying with a Muslim, there’s a high chance that there is someone there,” says Nizam.

More News

Grid
List
LAKE OF THE OZARKS - 64 years later, a different lake and nearly triple the death toll, the duck boat... More >>
7 hours ago Friday, July 20 2018 Jul 20, 2018 Friday, July 20, 2018 9:12:00 PM CDT July 20, 2018 in News
(CNN) -- Russian intelligence operatives attempted to hack into the online accounts of staffers on three congressional campaigns in the... More >>
7 hours ago Friday, July 20 2018 Jul 20, 2018 Friday, July 20, 2018 8:46:27 PM CDT July 20, 2018 in News
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — As Charlotte, North Carolina, celebrates being chosen Friday to host the 2020 Republican National Convention, an... More >>
8 hours ago Friday, July 20 2018 Jul 20, 2018 Friday, July 20, 2018 8:05:32 PM CDT July 20, 2018 in News
(CNN) -- A cardiologist who treated former President George H.W. Bush was killed Friday morning in a bicycle-to-bicycle drive-by shooting... More >>
8 hours ago Friday, July 20 2018 Jul 20, 2018 Friday, July 20, 2018 7:34:02 PM CDT July 20, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - The Columbia Police Department will move into a new neighborhood over the next few weeks. In July,... More >>
9 hours ago Friday, July 20 2018 Jul 20, 2018 Friday, July 20, 2018 6:41:00 PM CDT July 20, 2018 in News
CALLAWAY COUNTY - A Steedman man was sentenced to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to charges of domestic... More >>
11 hours ago Friday, July 20 2018 Jul 20, 2018 Friday, July 20, 2018 5:22:00 PM CDT July 20, 2018 in News
ST. JOSEPH (AP) — A Missouri man has pleaded guilty in the fatal beating of his 77-year-old grandmother while he... More >>
12 hours ago Friday, July 20 2018 Jul 20, 2018 Friday, July 20, 2018 3:59:00 PM CDT July 20, 2018 in News
(CNN) -- The FBI is in possession of a recording between President Donald Trump and his former personal attorney Michael... More >>
12 hours ago Friday, July 20 2018 Jul 20, 2018 Friday, July 20, 2018 3:38:16 PM CDT July 20, 2018 in Continuous News
JEFFERSON CITY – House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty will resign from the Missouri House of Representatives effective Sunday in... More >>
15 hours ago Friday, July 20 2018 Jul 20, 2018 Friday, July 20, 2018 12:57:00 PM CDT July 20, 2018 in Top Stories
COLE COUNTY — The Cole County Sheriff’s Department responded to possible weapons violation on Thursday night. When the officers... More >>
16 hours ago Friday, July 20 2018 Jul 20, 2018 Friday, July 20, 2018 11:47:00 AM CDT July 20, 2018 in Top Stories
(AP) - President Donald Trump has indicated that he's willing to hit every product imported from China with tariffs and... More >>
19 hours ago Friday, July 20 2018 Jul 20, 2018 Friday, July 20, 2018 8:52:00 AM CDT July 20, 2018 in News
BRANSON - A press conference was held Friday morning following Thursday's fatal boat capsizing at Table Rock Lake. As... More >>
21 hours ago Friday, July 20 2018 Jul 20, 2018 Friday, July 20, 2018 7:23:00 AM CDT July 20, 2018 in News
BRANSON (AP) — About 300 people gathered in a parking lot outside a tourism business to remember the 17 people... More >>
21 hours ago Friday, July 20 2018 Jul 20, 2018 Friday, July 20, 2018 7:16:00 AM CDT July 20, 2018 in News
BRANSON - The recent boat incident that killed 11 and injured seven in Branson isn't the first time Ride the... More >>
1 day ago Friday, July 20 2018 Jul 20, 2018 Friday, July 20, 2018 2:06:00 AM CDT July 20, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - Thursday evening around 9:00 pm, two cars collided head-on at the intersection of Worley St. and W. Boulevard.... More >>
1 day ago Thursday, July 19 2018 Jul 19, 2018 Thursday, July 19, 2018 11:14:00 PM CDT July 19, 2018 in News
KANSAS CITY (AP) — A southern Missouri sheriff and a subordinate with whom he was having a romantic relationship have... More >>
1 day ago Thursday, July 19 2018 Jul 19, 2018 Thursday, July 19, 2018 10:46:00 PM CDT July 19, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - The City of Columbia confirmed Friday the household hazardous waste collection is cancelled. The waste collection was... More >>
1 day ago Thursday, July 19 2018 Jul 19, 2018 Thursday, July 19, 2018 10:16:00 PM CDT July 19, 2018 in News
(CNN) -- More illnesses have been reported across the United States in two separate cyclospora outbreaks, federal health officials said... More >>
1 day ago Thursday, July 19 2018 Jul 19, 2018 Thursday, July 19, 2018 9:31:35 PM CDT July 19, 2018 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 68°
5am 68°
6am 67°
7am 68°
8am 72°