Hadi Abulughod, 12, whose parents came from Kuwait, and Miriam Jaber, 12, whose Palestinian father emigrated from the West Bank, helped raise an American flag this week on the tallest of three new flagpoles at the Islamic Center along W. Layton Ave.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee area, they are as much American citizens as other Wisconsin seventh-graders.

And that is the point as the area’s Muslim community celebrates the center’s 25th anniversary this week.

“We felt that it is important to show that we are a part of the fabric of society,” said Othman Atta of Glendale, an attorney and Palestinian immigrant who is president of the Islamic Society of Milwaukee. “Unfortunately, there are some people in certain segments of the society that are questioning whether Muslims are part of the fabric of this country and whether they even should be,” Atta said.

Installing the flagpoles — one each for the American flag, the Wisconsin flag and an Islamic Center flag — provides a visible symbol of that, he said.

The flags were raised in front of what once was New Road School. It was purchased from Milwaukee Public Schools in 1982 for $115,000 by two groups that merged in 1983 to form the Islamic Society of Milwaukee, Atta said. It has been expanded over the years and includes a mosque with a large prayer area, a minaret, a school, a gym, offices, a new front entrance and other features.

Its Salam School, founded in 1992 with 25 students and now led by Principal Wanis Shalaby, began the school year in August with 450 children from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.

The Muslim community in southeastern Wisconsin — estimated at 10,000 to 15,000 by some of its leaders — has grown dramatically since the 1950s.

Communal gatherings for Friday prayers and for Eid, or holy day, prayers, once were held in scattered homes. Now, an estimated 5,000 adults and children attend Eid gatherings, which must be held in large facilities such as the Midwest Airlines Center in downtown Milwaukee. (MORE)


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