A Diverse Community of Muslims Mixes Traditions from Around the World to Celebrate Ramadan

October 29, 2006


Source: St. Petersburg Times


During the holy month of Ramadan, which ended a week ago today, that was the best way to find Pasco's least known place to pray. It's off State Road 54 in an ordinary strip center containing doctor's offices; and it's where, as the evening blue crept into the sky, shoes would pile up in front of the office doors and where, behind the doors, blossomed an American brand of Islam.

All month long, congregants met just before sunset at the Islamic Center of New Port Richey for Iftar - the breaking of the 12-hour fast and evening prayers. Children played football outside, women in bright head scarves and their husbands unloaded aluminum serving trays and boxes filled with tastes from the melting pot: Chicken biryani and boxes of Dunkin' Donuts; jerk chicken and macaroni and cheese. Palestinians and Syrians made lamb rice and hummus one night. A Pakistani family brought Pizza Hut and chicken wings another night.

"When we first came here there was nothing, so we started our prayers in our offices," said Dr. Abdur Rahim, one of the founding members of the Islamic Center, who moved to New Port Richey in 1983. "Then we found there were other people besides us, and we started to invite them."

From three doctors praying in their own offices, they moved into the house of a pharmacist, which they quickly outgrew. They rented one office in the strip mall off State Road 54 and then a second office for the women. Today about 100 families come to the center for prayers.