CAIR: ANNAPOLIS GROUP PLANS FOR PRAYER CENTER, LIBRARY AND AREA'S FIRST ISLAMIC HIGH SCHOOL
Right now, it's just 20 acres of exceptionally green, overgrown vegetation and a few mounds of red dirt.
But in the middle of the wide, lush field, near the junction of two highways in Millersville, is a large sign that's difficult to miss. It reads: Future Home of Makkah Learning Center.
It might take several years, and several million dollars, say members of the Annapolis Islamic Society, but here will stand the Baltimore region's first Islamic high school. Next to it will be a media center with radio and TV stations, sports fields and a library. And, maybe one day, a small college.
The Makkah Learning Center - named for Islam's holiest city - has been a dream of the society's members for more than a decade. But the vision gained urgency after the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
"This is our way in the Muslim community to fight back against terrorism - by education," said Mohammad Arafa, president of the society.
Hoping to open the prayer center later this month, during the holy month of Ramadan, organizers say they want to create a place of solace and learning for local Muslims while building a bridge to the community at large. The planned high school will accept non-Muslims and the library and sports fields will be open for public use. Interfaith activities are planned for the center as well.
Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the national Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington, said that nationally, there is a growing demand for Islamic schools, and high schools in particular.
"A stand-alone high school has not been accomplished very often in the United States. A facility of that size and nature would be almost unique," Hooper said. "It would be a great step forward for the Muslim community."