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Independent Thoughts: Islamic Society settles in at Elm Street location

by | Jun 27, 2024 | Featured, Featured: Features

U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern

U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern speaks at the Islamic Society of Greater Milford interfaith event June 9 at Masjid Al-Ikhlaas, the organization’s center in Hopkinton.

When the Community Covenant Church vacated its building at 2 Elm Street, across from the Price Chopper plaza, and put it up for sale, the timing was right for the Islamic Society of Greater Milford.

ISGM had been struggling to find a suitable location for its growing community, which now includes members from 16 area towns. St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, located on Wood Street, allowed the group use of its community center for prayers, but as noted by ISGM board member Furquan Syed, “The space quickly became insufficient.”

When the building at 2 Elm Street came available, the ISGM raised the money to purchase it, converting it into Masjid Al-Ikhlaas.

“The process wasn’t easy, but the community’s support was overwhelming,” Syed said, calling it “a testament to the community spirit here in Hopkinton.”

On June 9, the ISGM showed off its new digs when it hosted an interfaith meet and greet event.

The event, organized by ISGM’s Tawheed Interfaith and Dawah Center, brought together community members, faith leaders and local dignitaries to foster dialogue, understanding and collaboration among diverse faith communities.

“We are here today to build bridges of understanding and trust,” Syed stated.

Among the attendees were various religious leaders from the area and several community leaders from Hopkinton and neighboring towns, along with U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern.

“This is what a community should look like — people dedicated to making things better for everyone,” McGovern said, adding, “It is so refreshing to be in a place with people of faith — different faiths — gathered here today, dedicated to good.”

McGovern emphasized the shared values among different faiths, saying: “Love, justice, dignity, respect, peace and human rights are central to all our faiths.”

Hopkinton Select Board member Shahidul Mannan spoke about the importance of outreach in fostering trust and understanding.

“A big part of a strong, diverse community is understanding each other and being comfortable with our identity as a whole,” Mannan remarked as he shared his personal journey of balancing his cultural identity with his professional life in America. “We must engage in honest and open dialogue, recognizing our shared humanity and working towards a common vision of peace and justice.”

ISGM president Nawaz Karim highlighted the rapid growth and dedication of the Islamic community in the area.

“Having this mosque established so quickly is a testament to the diversity and welcoming spirit of the people of this town,” Karim said, noting that ISGM has hosted blood drives, food distributions and free clinics.

“We are not done yet,” Karim added. “We want to be part of this community and give back. … We are part of this fabric. Let’s continue to work together to build a better, more united community.”

Pride Parade celebrates diversity

Despite some on-and-off rain, the annual Pride Parade was another memorable occasion June 8 at the Hopkinton Center for the Arts.

“The rain did not spoil our parade,” said organizer Ellen Fitzpatrick. “It was still a good show despite the weather.”

Organized by the Hopkinton Freedom Team, the event celebrates not just LGBTQIA+ people but all the diverse members of the community.

“I think it’s important for Hopkinton to have diverse representation, and pride events like this are especially important for the LBGTQ and the youth in town,” Fitzpatrick said. “There were happy and prideful conversations, people were happy to be celebrating.”

Neighboring communities were invited to take part in this year’s event, which drew “a few hundred people,” according to Fitzpatrick. There were transgender performers and a musical group from the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism, among others.

“We had some good, diverse performers, which I thought added a lot to the event,” Fitzpatrick said.

Fitzpatrick already has ideas for how to make the event more appealing next year.

“I want to rebrand it to be a march and not a parade, which I think is confusing to some people, and give it a fresh, new look,” she said. “I’d like to move the march to later, after some of the other activities — have the crafts done earlier, which would allow the kids to carry the things they’ve made during the walk.”

Fitzpatrick credited the HCA for being an “incredible host,” along with event sponsors, including Middlesex Savings Bank and Hopkinton Youth & Family Services.

“It was a more collaborative effort this year, which was really nice,” Fitzpatrick said. “HCA and Youth & Family Services helped a lot, so it felt good to have more support.”

Ultimately, the day served its purpose of giving often-marginalized members of the community a voice and allowing them to feel supported.

“I think it’s especially important for the youth,” Fitzpatrick said. “They need to know that there are allies, there are people willing to stand by your side.”

HHS hosts successful Model U.N.

A belated congratulations to the Hopkinton High School students who organized the inaugural HHS Model United Nations event on March 23.

Senior Bhavya Ravi served as secretary general, senior Lucy Graham was secretary general for the general assembly and senior Dhruv Shah was secretary general for crisis. HHS social studies teacher Savannah Histen served as faculty advisor.

The event offered 50 students from HHS, Catholic Memorial, Ashland, Westford Academy and Xaverian “an opportunity to address the challenges posed by climate change, the writer’s strike in Hollywood and the foundations of a nation from the viewpoint of some of the great philosophers from history,” according to a summary of the event from Model U.N. state advisor Donald Franke, who praised the organizers for the successful debut event.

“Not only did the [event] staff provide everyone involved with a superb Model U.N. experience, they offered another great model for how to run a small conference as well as handle the details involved with hosting a conference for the first time,” Franke wrote.

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