From Ashes, Faiths Unite

July 10, 2007


Source: St. Petersburg Times

TAMPA – Before someone set fire to the Islamic Education Center of Tampa, Dr. Akram J. Al-Asdi felt isolated, certain that many Americans viewed Muslims negatively.

But as word of the April fire spread, so too did the generosity of strangers.

In the mosque's sleepy Town 'N County neighborhood, residents stopped by to offer support. And to Al-Asdi's surprise, many people, Muslim and non-Muslim, gave financial donations intended to help the Islamic community rebuild.

Much work remains, but Al-Asdi feels encouraged.

"You feel their love and support, " said Al-Asdi, 57, a retired pediatric surgeon and the center's chairman. "Of course, there is hatred. But I believe our community is good, our neighborhood is excellent and our nation is excellent."

Al-Asdi watched Thursday morning as contractors removed the charred ceiling from a concrete-block worship center still covered with soot and heavy with the stench of smoke. Mosque officials estimate that it will cost at least $50, 000 to restore the center, which an arsonist set ablaze in April after breaking a window in the main prayer hall and pouring gasoline inside. The building was uninsured, Al-Asdi said.