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Published: Saturday, 3/16/2013

Islamic Center of Greater Toledo holds prayers in redone area

Room where fire was started is opened for Friday services

BY TK BARGER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Dr. Farhana Habib of Maumee is overcome with emotion during prayer services at the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo. Friday's services were the first return to the mosque since an arson attack in September. Dr. Farhana Habib of Maumee is overcome with emotion during prayer services at the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo. Friday's services were the first return to the mosque since an arson attack in September.
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For the first time in about six months, the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo held its weekly worship service Friday in the mosque’s prayer room, the very room where a fire was started in September.

“We started out [in October] at Gold Medal Sports, and then we went to Holiday Inn Express, and then we went to Holiday Inn French Quarter, and literally [Friday’s return] was a matter of logistics — we just didn’t have any place [to meet] this week, and I begged [the contractor]. I said, ‘Can we just get the prayer room? That’s all we’ll touch,’ ” said Cherrefe Kadri, the Islamic Center’s president.

“I felt like it was Eid [festival] day, when people were coming in,” she said of the service. “I just felt this energy from everyone.”

Because of the extensive damage, there is new tile on the floors outside the prayer room, new paint on the walls, the space has new lighting, and a specially made carpet will be installed soon.

PHOTO GALLERY: Faithful return to Islamic Center

During the prayer service, carpet remnants and prayer rugs covered the floor. Today, members of the Islamic Center will work to return items to their proper places in the mosque.

On Friday, Imam Farooq Abo Elzahab returned to the minbar, or pulpit, and gave his khutbah, or sermon. He faced Mecca and led prayers.

“You cannot describe it, really,” he said about returning to the prayer room for the Friday services. “I was really moved when I saw people here, and yes, the minbar is still not covered with the carpet, but [being here] makes a difference. Really, my thoughts and my heart are feeling everything.”

Randolph Linn, 52, of St. Joe, Ind., was charged with setting the Perrysburg mosque on fire. He pleaded guilty in December to one count each of intentionally defacing, damaging, and destroying religious property; using a fire to commit a felony; and using and carrying a firearm to commit a crime of violence stemming from the Sept. 30 fire.

Since then, Linn has filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea. A hearing on that request is scheduled for Thursday before U.S. District Court Judge Jack Zouhary.

Yehia “John” Shousher, who in 1954 was the first president of the mosque, said the Islamic community here made history that year when it built the first mosque in the state of Ohio and the third in the nation. That mosque, at 722 E. Bancroft St., is now Toledo Masjid of Al-Islam.

“In 1982 we built this mosque [at 25877 Scheider Rd.] and brought in the community together and also made history,” he said. “After the damages and after the criminal act [in September], that also brought in the community together to know God is one [and] created us all equal.

“No matter what they could do, they cannot burn our faith or destroy our faith and our religion,” Mr. Shousher said. “And our creator, we are thankful to him, and the community that supported us and that protected this building, and the contractor, that they have put it back together and, hopefully, hopefully, we’ll have a big celebration with the whole community.”

The Islamic School will return to the mosque in April from its temporary quarters at Owens Community College in Maumee. The mosque’s school children attended the service Friday.

The Islamic Center’s International Festival, a community event, will return in September, Ms. Kadri said.

Contact TK Barger at: tkbarger@theblade.com or 419-724-6278, or on Twitter @TK_Barger.



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