East of Dixie Highway, past the high-pitched squeals of schoolchildren, at the corner of a leafy traffic circle lies a small piece of South Florida history.
It’s Broward’s oldest Islamic center, which is grappling with change — inside and outside its beige brick walls in Pompano Beach. Seeking a larger space for a growing congregation, the 23-year-old center is contending with a not entirely hospitable world outside.
The center hasn’t had any threats or vandalism in recent years, but worshipers have complained about frequent harassment.
The Islamic Center of South Florida has been quietly housed in this middle-class neighborhood at 507 NE Sixth St., less than a mile from City Hall, since 1984. Back then, it was the only center of its kind in Broward.
Over the years, the center has remained an integral part of Broward’s growing Muslim community. It conducted a memorial service for a local Palestinian man who was killed in March after a thief drove over him where he worked at a Fort Lauderdale sporting goods manufacturer.
”Our mosque is very important to us,” said Mohad Falil, 51, a cabinet store owner originally from Jordan. ”If somebody dies, we can properly bury him.”
Today, the Islamic Center of South Florida is known for its mostly Arab congregation. Nearby Islamic centers have largely Pakistani, Guyanese or Trinidadian worshipers.
The Pompano Beach center’s membership has swelled with South Florida’s population. Today, as many as 70,000 Muslims are estimated to live in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations. (MORE)