Newly opened Al-Faruuq Center of Tucson. (Amer Taleb)
By Amer Taleb
Maybe the first of it’s kind locally, Al-Faruuq Center of Tucson just opened at 4460 East Pima.
Co-founder Ibrahim Yusuf Naseeb said the city’s Somali population is growing, but their connection to Somalia is fading. With an emphasis on Somali ‘culture’, Naseeb said the institution will help Tucson’s Somali children remember their roots to a country that’s been torn apart in a 20 year civil war.
Tucson Minaret: Why was the center opened?
Ibrahim Yusuf Naseeb: It’s a response to the needs of Tucson’s Somali community. Many of the refugee children come to Tucson and they forget Somali, now they only speak English. We want the kids to maintain their Somali language and culture. And by ‘culture’, I mean a certain way of learning. For example, there’s a specific way we teach the Quran. And in a few years Insha Allah (God willing) we’re expecting to have several hufaddh (person who’s memorized the entire Quran) coming from this center.
The center is also open to women, men and we’ll help them learn the Quran, Islamic Studies and gain an appreciation for who the Prophet Muhammad was.
TM: Doesn’t the Weekend School already do those things for children?
IN: Yes, but there are some big differences. The Weekend School is only open on Sunday, we’re going to have three days for the children. Another reason is that the Weekend School doesn’t have enough instructors to teach the children Somali.
I want to make this clear, we are an addition to the Weekend School, we are not competing with anyone. Besides, the goal for both schools is the same: We want to benefit the Muslim community and I hope both of us can work together.
TM: Give me an example to illustrate why the Somali community needs this center?
IN: One of the Somali elder’s told me he doesn’t even know al-fatiha (short chapter of Quran), and he can’t teach his children the Quran. It’s sad. He’s almost 50, and he doesn’t even know al-fatiha. In other parts of the U.S., cities are having problems with Somali gangs. We don’t need that in Tucson. We can prevent many of those problems with this center.
Inside the center. (Photo by Amer Taleb)
TM: Is the center open to everyone?
IN: The name says Al-Faruuq. If it was only for Somali’s, we’d call it the Somali Center. It’s open to everyone and we won’t only speak Somali. English, Arabic, Spanish – we welcome everybody.
TM: How many people do you expect to attend weekly?
IN: There’s roughly 6-700 Somali’s in Tucson. I think the majority of them will use the center at least once a week.
TM: Where did you get the money for the center?
IN: There are 4 people paying the monthly $1,000 rent out of pocket. Right now, we’re not getting any monetary donations. We just submitted the paperwork to the state to be a recognized non-profit, so we can’t accept donations yet. But eventually we’ll able to.
TM: How can people help you in the meantime?
IN: Again, we can’t accept monetary donations yet, but people can send a check for the rent directly to the owner. We also need volunteers, blackboards, Quran’s, notebooks, pencils….. we’re very happy to accept any type of support.
TM: Has the Islamic Center of Tucson been supporting you?
IN: They’ve been very supportive. They even paid the first month’s rent.
TM: When will the center be open and will you use it for Friday Prayers (Jummua)?
IN: We’re open 7 days a week. Monday and Tuesday for the women, Wednesday and Thursday for men and the rest of the week is for the children. And we won’t be using this place for Jummua. I’m against that. We want people to maintain a strong connection with the ICT. Al-farooq is only for memorizing Quran, Hadith and teaching people their religion.