Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition to open resource center
By Annysa Johnson of the Journal Sentinel
Couple invests $600,000 of their own money for the project
For 17 years, the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition has worked to dispel myths and educate the public about Islam through outreach, interfaith dialogue and informational programs. But it never had a home of its own.
That officially changes next month with the opening of the coalition’s newest venture, the Islamic Resource Center for Community Outreach at 5235 S. 27th St. in Greenfield.
The 5,000-square-foot center, in addition to housing the coalition offices, will serve as a first-of-its-kind clearinghouse locally for all things Islam – offering a lending library, Arabic language classes, and an array of cultural programming from lectures and films to cooking classes.
“We want to be accessible to the general public, to public school teachers, anyone who just wants to learn about Islam,” said Janan Najeeb, president of the coalition who with her husband, physician Waleed Najeeb, invested nearly $1 million of their own money into the project.
The Milwaukee area is believed to be home to as many as 15,000 Muslims, representing one of the most diverse faith communities in the state with followers from every corner of the world.
That diversity is celebrated in the art and artifacts behind glass in the resource center lobby: ornate silver jewelry boxes from India; Egyptian and Palestinian pottery; an intricate wooden carving from Indonesia – many of the items embellished with verses from the Qur’an.
Work in progress
Though the official debut is weeks away, some limited programming has begun.
On Friday, about 50 people attended the opening of an exhibit of paintings by Syrian artist Adib Fattal. On Tuesday, girls from the local Muslim Somali-Bantu community gathered for a coalition program aimed at keeping them in school and off the path to early childbirth.
At the same time, the work of getting the center up and running is ongoing.
On Monday, a library science intern from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee worked on cataloging the lending library.
Najeeb said the goal is to amass about 500 titles by the end of the year and begin lending in 2012. Until then, readers are welcome to peruse the volumes on site at the center.
The coalition didn’t initially set out to create the resource center.
It grew out of the brainstorming that began about four years ago as the group discussed the possibility of creating a permanent home.
“We asked the question, ‘If we had our dream space, what would we want?’ ” Janan Najeeb said. “And to be a place where people could get accurate information was on the top of the list.”
The coalition scouted for property near downtown Milwaukee, but prices and the lack of parking were problematic.
When the group members found the 27th St. property, it was too large for their purposes.
So Waleed Najeeb decided to expand his north-side medical practice south and open a clinic in half of the building.
The Najeebs bought the property and funded the renovations.
But the nonprofit women’s coalition will cover the resource center’s estimated $150,000 annual operating expenses.
The Najeebs’ contribution is born of a sense of mission, a desire that people have accurate information about the faith they practice and love.
“Really, the only way to dispel fear is to promote understanding, to promote knowledge,” she said.
IF YOU GO
Islamic Resource Center for Community Outreach at 5235 S. 27th St. in Greenfield will host an open house from noon to 5 p.m. July 23. For more information on the resource center, as well as Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition programs, go to www.mmwconline.org or call (414) 727-9600.
Original post: Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition to open resource center