South Florida's Muslim community is a diverse melting pot from all regions of the globe. We have Muslims from regions in Africa, Asia, the Americas and the Oceania. I have yet to meet a Muslim from the Polar region but I'm sure I will soon enough. They all bring with them a vast array of cultures, languages, foods and ideologies. The majority of the Muslim population in South Florida is immigrant; however the non-immigrant community is thriving as well.
There is also a mix of Sunni and Shi'a that mirrors the global population of 85-90% Sunni and 10-15% Shi'a. Globally the Sunni Shi'a conflict continues, however the South Florida Muslim community, being mostly immigrant, seem to have left their differences back home. Often times they meet in harmony and some of the larger Sunni Islamic Centers offer up their facility to the smaller Shi'a communities during EID prayers. This is very inspiring and serves as a great example to the rest of the Muslim world.
Currently there are over forty Islamic Centers and Schools, and we have calculated that there are 90,000 to 110,000 Muslims in South Florida. South Florida Muslims serve our government as law enforcement officers, military personnel, postal employees, educators, prosecutors, public defenders, elected officials' staff, city and county employees. In the private sector the Muslims thrive in medicine, law, engineering, academia, retail, wholesale, transportation, information technology, food & hospitality to name a few. The majority of our community is well educated and contributes to the surrounding communities on a regular basis through charity events and community programs.
As the Muslim community grows, the number of businesses that cater to Muslims is also growing. Clothing, food, interest free financing and the ever-so-popular hookah bars. While many of these businesses market to the Muslim population, many other community members are starting to take advantage of the services. I mean, think about it; why would anyone want to pay interest? The diversity in the food selection is nothing short of bliss. You want Indy/Pakistani food? No problem. You want Middle Eastern/Mediterranean food? No problem. You want Caribbean food? No problem. I could go on and on. Regardless of your palate, we have you covered.
One of the most enjoyable experiences in South Florida is attending the Friday prayer services. You get a real snapshot of how diverse our community really is. It's like attending a meeting at the United Nations. Everybody stands shoulder to shoulder and foot to foot in prayer. After prayer the community visits with each other, there are multiple languages being spoken and people from different regions of the world are together in complete harmony. It really is a humbling experience.
The South Florida Muslim community is also engaging their elected leaders. They are meeting with local, state and federal leaders to discuss issues that are affecting them. The upcoming presidential election is proving to be very interesting. The community is disappointed in Obama and deterred by the current GOP candidates. After speaking with the community they probably will vote for Obama because of the GOP candidates' blatant disregard for Muslims' civil rights. There is one candidate in the GOP who is a strict constitutionalist and will not sacrifice liberty for security, Congressman Ron Paul. Man, is he consistent! If he can make it through the primary, I can see the majority of the Muslim community voting for him.
In closing I would like to share a story that will really open your eyes. I had an opportunity to sit with the founder of the Islamic Center of South Florida, one of the oldest centers in Florida. He is one of the most respected leaders in our community and everyone listens to his wisdom. I was asking how the community was doing and we got into the subject of him coming to America. He said, "Nezar, we can't practice Islam where I'm from like we do in the United States. You can't go on the street and hand out simple flyers or hold events to educate people on Islam. If we tried this we would have been jailed or worse." After listening to him I realized that Muslims immigrated here not only for the opportunity, but also to practice their religion in a free society. Man, what an eye opener!
God Bless America!
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