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Growing Muslim congregation worships in Hewlett

Islamic Center members say they have been accepted by the community

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The only mosque in the Five Towns is found just off Peninsula Boulevard in Hewlett on Hamilton Avenue, a short dead end street.

The Islamic Center of Five Towns has been officially serving the local Muslim community since 2013. Although, Tanvir Ahmad, the center’s president, and his brother-in-law and board member, Eqbal Rasheed have been praying there with small groups since 2006, but they’ve been a part of the Five Towns for much longer.

“We lived [in this house] since 1987 through 2005,” Rasheed said. After moving out they had looked to rent out or sell the house, but ultimately decided to turn it into a place of worship as the next closest center is in Valley Stream.

Ahmad says that they see upwards of 200 families from the surrounding areas. They’re also seeing Muslims moving into the community, Rasheed said, “A good school district and an Islamic Center brings a lot of people.”

Ramadan, a month of fasting and prayer to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to the prophet Muhammad, ended on June 24. Worshippers would hold a special daily prayer session for two hours everyday after breaking their fast in the evening.

Ahmad said that like all other religions their prayer sessions are larger during the high holidays and sometimes they’d see non-Muslims as well. “The mosque is open for everybody,” he said. “Local police came [during Ramadan], they were very helpful. Our neighbors too.”

Being a good neighbor is important to both Ahmad and Rasheed, there is no parking lot on Hamilton Avenue for the mosque, but their neighbors have accommodated them. Ahmad said: “It hasn’t been just one or two years, we’ve been living here for around thirty years … All the kids around here, they know us, it’s not like we just landed here from the moon.”

Rasheed believes that the Jewish population has made their integration into the area easy as the community is used to seeing places of worship across the Five Towns. They’ve also tried to give back to the community that’s accepted them. They hold an Islamic class for children on Saturdays and a Sunday school for regular school kids, they’ve been donating food to the non-profit organization Muslims Giving Back and Ahmad has even coached soccer for the Hewlett Lawrence Soccer Club.

“When you get something from society you’ve got to give back too.” Said Ahmad: “I feel like humanity comes first… How you pray is up to you, how I pray is up to me, but we’re all in this together.”