The Islamic Center of Greater Toledo, with its twin minarets and golden geodesic dome, towers over the landscape in the southern outskirts of Toledo.
Unlike the striking architecture of the mosque, however, the nearly 6,000 Muslims living in greater Toledo do not stand apart from their surroundings. Toledo-area Muslims have, in fact, been spotlighted by the U.S. State Department and a national television network for being unusually well-integrated into the mainstream community.
“I think that Toledo has made a name for itself for being an integrated community, not just within itself but in the community at large,” said Dr. S. Zaheer Hasan, a neurologist and former president of the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo.
“In the 25 years since I came here [from Pakistan], things have changed. When I came to the United States, barely anyone knew about Islam. Today, everybody knows about Muslims, everybody knows about Islam, and everybody has met their doctor also,” said Dr. Hasan, partly joking while also making a serious reference to the high percentage of local Muslims in the medical profession.
Many Muslims say they feel safe, welcome, and at home in northwest Ohio.
“I think in general there’s an openness among the people of Toledo,” said Fatima Al-Hayani, a retired professor of Middle East and Islamic affairs at the University of Toledo. “There’s also a quest for knowledge and to separate fact from fiction. I find that very, very healthy and very beautiful.”
Dr. Hasan said CBS News took note of Toledo’s Muslims primarily because they do not live in clusters or shop at Arab or Muslim-oriented stores. A CBS news crew led by veteran religion correspondent Ted Holmes spent a week in Toledo in October to film a 30-minute news program, American Muslims: A Chance To Speak, scheduled to premiere at noon tomorrow on WTOL-TV (Channel 11) and at various times on 111 other CBS affiliates nationwide. . .
Julia Shearson of Cleveland, executive director of the Cleveland chapter of the Council of American Islamic Relations, said she admires the way the Toledo Muslim community fits into the general population.
“Muslims are extremely well integrated into the fabric of American life in Toledo,” she said. “And because of the cohesiveness of the community, they have been able to welcome with open arms Muslims coming from different parts of the world.”
She lauded the way local Muslim leaders not only work together but have built relationships with Muslim communities throughout Ohio. “Toledo has some remarkable leaders and a core group that believes in them. The Toledo community continues to show amazing vision,” Ms. Shearson said.