Al-Aqsa Islamic Society

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Al-Aqsa Islamic Society.

The Al-Aqsa Islamic Society gives the following descriptive information:

Al-Aqsa Islamic Society has been established since 1989 to maintain the Islamic Identity and to protect and sustain the Islamic Community in Philadelphia. The task is fulfilled through many services this society offers to the Muslims and Arab Communities in the Greater Philadelphia area.

Al-Aqsa’s vibrant mosaic-and-mural exterior is known as “Doorways to Peace.” It is the result of an interfaith, collaborative project between Al-Aqsa members, local artists, local Muslim and non-Muslim schoolchildren, neighbors, churches, and synagogues. Housed in the former Dubin Company furniture warehouse, Al-Aqsa encompasses a mosque and cultural center for the neighborhood’s close-knit Palestinian community and other Arab Muslims in the area. Since its founding in 1989, Al-Aqsa has grown beyond the mosque to include a grocery nd an elementary and high school that provides Islamic studies and Arabic language lessons. After September 11, 2001, the mosque’s leaders and members have sought to raise awareness and tolerance of Philadelphia’s Arab Muslim community to counter the growth of anti-Muslim sentiment. By reaching out to their non-Arab neighbors, Al-Aqsa has become a welcome hub of community activity in this transitional neighborhood.

Muslim Americans have made Philadelphia their home for over a century. Lebanese merchants began to settle in South Philadelphia, creating a community around St. Maron’s Church at 10th and Federal Streets. More recent immigration have come from all over the Arab world, with origins as diverse as Palestine, Iraq and Syria. Palestinian immigration began in the 1950s and 1960s, and many Palestinians in Philadelphia (and New Jersey) are part of a large extended family, coming from the same West Bank village of Mukhmas, and settling in this neighborhood around North 2nd Street. In fact Philadelphia’s Palestinians travel back and forth annually to Mukhmas to visit family and to help build village schools. In Philadelphia they maintain close ties with each other by living in the same neighborhood and working together as independent business owners and operators.

The “Doorways to Peace” project began in 2003 when Al-Aqsa undertook a community-wide effort to both beautify its facade and build bridges between the Muslim and non-Muslim communities of South Kensington. Al-Aqsa partnered with the Mural Arts Program, the Arts and Spirituality Center (located in West Philadelphia) and artists Joe Brenman, Cathleen Hughes, and Fadwa Kashkash, to enlist neighbors, two nearby public schools, Hancock St. John’s United Methodist Church, and a variety of other individuals and community groups to work collectively to transform the Society’s building and strengthen relationships along the way.


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