On Friday afternoons, the imam leads prayers for some 20 people in the family room of his Shoreline house. But it is in the cavernous hole in his backyard that he sees the future of his scattered community.

Here, Imam Abdulah Polovina and other Muslims from Bosnia plan to build a roughly 4,500-square-foot cultural center they hope will help preserve their religion, culture and identity. “Bosnia is a small country, and now the Bosnian people are scattered [around the world],” said Hatidza Polovina, the imam’s wife. “If they scatter, they assimilate, lose the language and the culture and the religion.”

It’s an important issue to the state’s roughly 5,000 Bosniaks — a Slavic ethnic group from Eastern Europe who mainly are Muslim.

“What makes them unique is they’re European Muslims,” said Jame Felak, associate professor of history at the University of Washington. “They’re not Muslims who moved to Europe. They’re Muslims who’ve been Europeans for hundreds of years. In that sense, they see themselves as kind of a bridge between East and West.”

It was only about 15 years ago that Bosniaks came in any great numbers to this area, most as refugees of war. (MORE)


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