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Muslim Educational Trust celebrates new community center on Scholls Ferry Road

Fundraising still underway to finish construction on community center.


TIMES PHOTO: ADAM WHICKAM - Elected officials and religious leaders from across the Portland area were in attendance on Friday to celebrate the new Muslim Educational Trust community center. MET works with Christian and Jewish groups around the Portland area to improve relations between Muslims and non-MuslimsNadira Najieb was all smiles as she took the stage on Friday.

“This is a ray of hope,” she told the crowd of more than 700. “It’s a dream. It’s a prayer manifested.”

After nearly two years of construction, the new Muslim Educational Trust school and community center on Scholls Ferry Road was opened to the public last week, with a grand opening on Friday that included more than 30 speeches from elected officials, religious leaders and community members.

PTIMES PHOTO: ADAM WICKHAM - The foyer of the new Muslim Educational Trust community center on Scholls Ferry Road. The building includes a public swimming pool, art gallery and event space.art mosque, part school, part community center and part museum, the new building is everything that MET officials have been waiting for, said Najieb, a retired principal at MET’s K-12 school.

“My heart is overflowing,” said Najieb. “I remember this school when it was a classroom in a basement. For exercise, we didn’t have a gym, we’d stand at different corners and run the children around the block. Now, we have an Olympic-sized swimming pool. I am so thankful for this body because if I didn’t have it it’d be bouncing all over the walls. This is such a blessing.”

For more than two decades, the Muslim Educational Trust has worked with local interfaith groups to better relations between the Islamic and non-Muslim communities. Since 2000, MET has operated a kindergarten through high school at the location.

The new 36,000-square-foot building, located at 10330 S.W. Scholls Ferry Road, is hard to miss with its colorful dome and elaborate architecture.

The community center is open to the public. Families can purchase a monthly membership for access to facilities, such as its art gallery, swimming pool, and commercial kitchen.

The new space also has plenty of room to grow. MET currently enrolls more than 150 students. Schools officials say that they will slowly expand, eventually taking in more than 200 students.

Najieb said that the $9.5 million community center wouldn’t have been built without the financial support of the entire community, including local Muslims and non-Muslims.

“This building represents our prayers, our hopes and our commitment,” she said.

Tigard Mayor John L. Cook said that the community center will benefit all of Tigard and Beaverton.

"We appreciate everything you’ve done,” he said. “… This great community center has been built for all of us.”

The center is the culmination of years of fundraising and construction for MET. Since 2013, the school has been run out of rented space along Southwest Nimbus Road, a few blocks from the site. They moved into the new building in August.

Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle said that the two-story tall building represents more than just a new home for MET.

“This accomplishment for our community is what America is all about,” Doyle said. “Trumpet that, people. This is what it’s all about. This truly is amazing.”

The grand opening was so well attended, the school’s new gymnasium was packed to capacity, spilling into the hallways. Cars stretched along Southwest Scholls Ferry Road, hoping for a spot in MET's crowded parking lot.

ADAM WICKHAM - Mohamed Alyajouri, Outreach Committee Chair with the Muslim Educational Trust, leads a tour in the science labs at the new MET school and community center on Friday evening. MET students moved into the new school in September.

'A meaningful difference'

MET officials had been planning a community center for years, with limited success.

When construction crews broke ground on the site in 2013, the organization had less than half of the money it needed.

The hope, MET spokeswoman Rania Ayoub told The Times in 2013, was that seeing the building under construction would inspire more people to contribute to the cause.

“To get people more excited, they need to see action happening,” Ayoub said. “When we break ground, we mobilize people more.”

The gamble worked. The community center has largely wrapped up construction, though the school still has about $175,000 to raise for safety and security improvements. Najieb said MET hopes to install bulletproof screens around the building.

It’s an unfortunate necessity, Najieb said, after religious extremists have carried out violent atrocities in the name of Islam.

But Najieb said those actions don’t reflect her religion, nor the values of her community.

“When we see different things on the news that aren’t positive, we know people who are,” Najieb said. “We know you and you know us.”

TIMES PHOTO: ADAM WHICKAM - It was standing room only at Muslim Educational Trust on Scholls Ferry Road, to celebrate the opening of its new community center.After deadly shootings in California and attacks by the so-called Islamic State terrorist group in Paris, U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump called for a ban on all Muslims entering the country until officials could “figure out what is going on.”

Trump’s call brought jeers from political leaders on both sides of the political aisle.

“So many of us have worked hard, night and day,” MET co-founder and president Wajdi Said told the crowd. “We shouldn’t let an ignorant person like Donald Trump bother us. We shouldn’t let our rotten apples make us apologetic.”

Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, a democrat who represents Tigard and Beaverton in Oregon’s 1st Congressional District, said that MET’s work to bring communities together is vitally important.

“Now more than ever our state and our country need the work that you do through the Muslim Educational Trust,” Bonamici said. “Your work in the interfaith community, your advocacy, your outreach and your efforts to educate the next generation of Muslim leaders all make a meaningful difference in our community.”

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales declared Friday “Islamic Heritage Day” in Portland in celebration of the work that Oregon Muslims have done in their communities. The Portland City Council will vote on a resolution this week denouncing Trump's plan.

“It’s not just us who wish to brush aside the reckless words and evil nonsense of hate speech,” Hales told the crowd. “It’s not just us who feel this way, but also the people we represent. We are here on their behalf. Thousands are here in spirit with you.”


By Geoff Pursinger
Reporter
503-546-0744
email: gpursinger@commnewspapers.com
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