Burmese Muslim immigrants visit Muncie Islamic Center
By Rick Yencer
MUNCIE, IN - Adam Hamid talked about the need for a community center to serve the growing Burmese Muslim neighborhood in nearby Fort Wayne.
Hamid and his brother, Rashid, talked with members of the Muncie Islamic Center this week, telling stories of religious discrimination and refugee camps along the Burma-Thailand- Bangladesh borders where hundreds of thousands of people live.
The Southeast Asia country of nearly 60 million has literally been at war much of the last half of the 20th Century and then run by the military until some reforms brought a Parliament to the country in 2011.
Rashid, an electrical engineer, came to Indiana a year ago to join hundreds more Burmese Muslim who fled the predominately Buddhist county.Military leaders barred Islamic mosques and many fled and then immigrated to the United States where other faith groups help relocate Burmese citizens to Fort Wayne.
More than 1,500 Burmese Muslim families live in Fort Wayne, and Hamid was seeking financial support for a new Islamic community center in the Summit City.
Rashid talked about political and religious persecution besides ongoing regional civil wars forcing some of the estimated 4 million Burmese Muslims to flee the country.
Jamal Williams, who belongs to the local Islamic community and a grandson of the late Christian minister J.C. Williams, a local human rights advocate, talked about visiting the Fort Wayne Islamic community and enjoying how families taught the Quran besides educated their children.
"They concentrate on their children," he said.
The new community center, hoping to raise $450,000 initially, would provide a mosque besides class and meeting rooms. Land has been secured in south Fort Wayne and Adam hoped to reach out to other Islamic communities for support, and thanked the local group for their participation.
Mohammed Bahrami, a local physician, welcomed the visitors and offered support, encouraging others in the Islamic community to do the same. The new Islamic Center locally is on McGalliard Road and opened a couple years ago with help from Bahrami and others.The Burmese Islamic community can be found online at bmeccfw.org. Ko Khin Maung Cho is president of the Burmese relief effort.
The local Islamic Center recently had visitors from Libya, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere who work at Ball State University, IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital and elsewhere to talk about their culture and religion.