Lavish Library of Islamic Knowledge ‘For Everyone,’ Says Houston Mayor
By   Merrill Hope

The   Library of Islamic Knowledge   officially opened last weekend in downtown Houston. Mayor Sylvester Turner, joined by former Houston Rockets Hall of Fame Hakeem Olajuwon, cut the ribbon of the lavish $2.5 million dollar library housed within the  Islamic Da’wah Center .

At the ribbon cutting ceremony, Turner said: “This place is not just for Muslims, but everyone,” noting it opens the door for people of all faiths to learn about a different part of the highly diverse city of Houston,   according to   the   Houston Chronicle.

The Houston newspaper described the venue as “white marble floors of the opulent library contrast with its mahogany brown tables and bookshelves – some of which remain empty.” There’s no shortage of gold in sight. The library’s executive director, Ameer Abuhalimeh, said it cost around $2.5 million.

“The center is dedicated to the history, culture and public education of Islam,” said Abuhalimeh. “Our goal isn’t just to promote a balanced perspective of Islam, but also to serve downtown Houston and the community at-large,” he added. The library is open to the public and is part of a larger goal to offer a comprehensive educational resource to Houston residents.

The Islamic Da’wah Center opened in 2002 on the site of the former Houston National Bank. Olajuwon, who   converted   to Islam early on in his NBA career, bought the property in 1994,   converting   it into the three-story mosque  that  houses a  main prayer hall, meeting rooms, classrooms, offices, and a kitchen. It was the first mosque in downtown Houston, according to   the center’s website, and the first in the city  “dedicated for Da’wah” (also spelled Dawa or Dawah).

“Broadly defined, Dawah means preaching, proselytizing or calling non-believers to Islam. Dawah is viewed in classic Islamic law as a communal obligation, meaning it is the general responsibility of the Muslim community,” says Kyle Shideler with the   Center for Security Policy .

The Islamic Da’wah Center website states  its mission is to “promote Islamic principles, teaching, and culture;” and its vision, to “become a destination for seekers of the truth.”

The new third floor library organizes programs that host worldwide lecturers and scholars with knowledge about Islam, Islamic history, cultures, literature and the Arabic language,  according to  the Islamic Da’wah Center. Offerings “will range from classical Islamic knowledge to contemporary issues that affect global Muslim communities” and “…will give participants opportunities to examine the historical and cultural aspects of Islam, review historical and current events, and study global and local challenges facing Muslims, as well as acquire academic knowledge that will enrich learning about Islamic culture and life as a Muslim.” The library will offer Arabic classes.

By year’s end, Abuhalimeh   anticipates   having 25,000 books in the library and a digital collection of approximately 100,000 titles. He hopes the center’s   Museum of Islamic Art, dedicated   to the accurate presentation of Islamic art,” will be completed by then. The museum lists among its key objectives celebrating 1,400 years of Islamic culture, the impact Muslims have had on humanity and “to propel the desire to further study and discover the mysteries of the Muslim world.”

During the ribbon cutting ceremony, Turner also said he was happy the center will continue to serve as an educational resource for middle schools, high schools, and colleges in the area, something it has done since its soft opening two months ago, as reported by the Houston newspaper .

In 2015, the Houston Independent School District   opened   its Arabic immersion magnet public school, which the Qatar Foundation International (QFI)   granted   the district’s Board of Education $75,000 for “Arabic language activities and Arab cultural events for students, teacher professional development, educational resources, the promotion of the Arabic language, community outreach, and curriculum development” as part of the school’s educational mission. Similarly, Olajuwon described a demand for the library to help the museum “complete the educational mission of the institution,” in the  Chronicle  article .

Houston has the state’s largest Muslim population, which, by some estimates,   accounts   for 1.2 percent of the city’s population. The US Census Bureau’s most  current 2014 available  statistics  estimate  2,239,558 people reside in the city of Houston.  The 2014   Social, Economic and Demographic Characteristics of Metro Houston  identified Arab as an ancestry for 0.7% or 41,653 people as part of the current Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown Metro area (based on the 2013 American Community Survey) of a  6,313,158 total population. In the Houston newspaper article, Abuhalimeh claimed 200,000 Muslims live  in Houston.

In 2015, the   San Antonio Express-News  reported   there were about 80 mosques and, at least, 10 Muslim schools in Houston.   According to  a 2007 Pew Research Center survey, 65 percent of adult Muslims in the US are  foreign born. Pew’s 2011 survey of Muslim Americans   noted   more  Muslims came to the US  in recent years: 12 percent came before 1980; 16 percent, during the 1980s; 31 percent, in  the 1990s; and 40 percent since 2000.

In January 2016, Pew   reported  just over half of the projected growth of the US Muslim population from 2010 to 2015 was because of immigration. They estimate 3.3 million Muslims of all ages live in the US, comprising around 1 percent of the nation’s population. Based on  age, fertility, mortality, migration, and religious switching drawn from multiple sources, including the 2011 survey, Pew projects the US Muslim  population to double by 2050.


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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