GA: Cultural Center Follows Bosnians



Dozens of Bosnians are expected to squeeze into a converted two-story house
in Snellville on Saturday for the dedication of an Islamic cultural center.

The yet-to-be-named center is nestled behind a woodsy flank of Centerville
Highway south of Highpoint Road. The center will offer classes in Bosnian,
the Koran and Bosnian history, said Ismet Zejnelovic, the center's imam.

The Bosnian Islamic center should help keep teenagers off the street and
serve as a spiritual compass for immigrants building a new home in America,
Zejnelovic said.

"We want to be here like a big family," he said. "In our tradition, family
is most important."

The first wave of Bosnian refugees who came to the region nearly a decade
ago settled in DeKalb County. But Gwinnett has quickly grown into the most
popular address for Bosnians who fled bloodshed in the Balkans. And it was
only a matter of time before the community dropped a cultural anchor here
as well.

The 2000 census counted 4,542 Bosnians living in metro Atlanta. But
Zejnelovic and other community leaders estimate the figure is at 10,000
now, with about 70 percent living in Gwinnett, largely the Lawrenceville
and Snellville areas. Most are ethnic Muslims.

Almedin "Dino" Kulo, 30, personifies the community's shift to Gwinnett. In
1997, Kulo settled right around the corner from the Bosnian community
center in Clarkston. But in a quest for better public schools, he moved the
nearly 20 miles to Snellville 2 1/2 years ago. Now the cultural center is
following, and Kulo couldn't be happier.

"It's right here, in front of my door again," said Kulo, a DeKalb firefighter

 


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