Events Showcase Muslim Culture, History

September 28, 2008

Author: Lawn Griffiths

Source: East Valley Tribune

When Hafez Turk moved to the Valley in 1965, there was only a scattering of Muslims. At times, only two or three gathered for Friday prayers in space provided at First Congregational Church of Phoenix.

"I hoped some more would show up," said the Tempe real estate agent and native of Palestine. "It was lonesome, but I felt if I stopped holding them, nobody would know where to meet" when more Muslims came to the area.

It wasn't until 1981 that the area's first mosque was completed, Masjid Jauharatul-Islam in south Phoenix, under the leadership of Imam Abdur-Rahim Shamsiddeen, who still leads it.

Now, a small group of Muslims has founded the Arizona Muslim Historical Society and have set out to gather stories about Muslims statewide.

"We've realized that many of our elders are getting old, and our history would be lost," said Aneesah Nadir of Mesa, a longtime voice for Muslims and leader of the history project.

On Friday, their "Jewel in the Desert" historical and heritage exhibit opens in Tempe City Hall, in partnership with Tempe Historical Museum. Through art, religious items and information panels, Muslims' place in the area's cultural tapestry is being told. It will remain on display until early April, and the public may see it during regular weekday hours at City Hall, 31 E. Fifth St.