CAIR-CT: ISLAM GAINING GROUND IN EASTERN CONNECTICUT
Sami Ahmed, who left Pakistan for the United States in 1983, began a Friday night Muslim prayer meeting at his house in Greeneville five years ago. At the time, three or four people attended the meetings. Now, between 30 and 40 Muslims meet weekly at his house.
"It seems like it is growing," Ahmed said of the practice of Islam in the region. Ahmed, who owns Sunshine Farms convenience store on Central Avenue, said Islam is the faith of his upbringing in Pakistan.
Indeed, Islam, the fastest-growing religion in the United States, is having its own, small growth spurt in Eastern Connecticut, fueled partly by foreign-born residents who have moved here for jobs at the regions' two casinos and who continue to practice the faith of their native lands.
A lecture being held Thursday night at Quinebaug Valley Community College in Danielson is intended to educate residents about Islam, which gained a reputation as a religion of extremists, misogynists and terrorists after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Because of that, Muslims in the United States have faced discrimination and violent attacks against them. But that hasn't stopped non-Muslims in the region and the nation from converting to the 1,400-year-old religion, which traces its roots to Christianity and Judaism.
Between 250 and 500 Muslims live in Norwich, New London and Groton, according to local estimates. The Islamic Center of New London in Groton has about 100 members.
Hamza Collins, director of civil rights for the Council for American-Islamic Relations chapter in New London and an African-American who converted to Islam, said the increase in the Muslim population is due to a combination of conversions and migrations.