Abbott joins Ismaili Muslims in opening Cedar Park community center


Highlights

Gov. Greg Abbott praised the 2,500 Ismaili volunteers who provided relief after Hurricane Harvey.

Ismaili Muslim leaders say Texas is home to the largest population of Ismaili in the United States.

Gov. Greg Abbott was on hand Tuesday as Ismaili Muslims community members opened their first purpose-built interfaith center in Cedar Park.

The Ismaili Jamatkhana at 2401 South Lakeline Boulevard is the newest prayer and gathering place that community leaders say was built specially to promote an understanding of Islam and other religions.

“Their value is bringing people of different backgrounds together and building knowledge of one another and their religious traditions,” said Omar Sanji, communications coordinator for the Aga Khan Council for the Southwest United States. “So it’s a place for Ismailis to get to know our neighbors from all walks of life better and for them to know us better.”

The Ismaili community is a branch of Shiite Muslims led by the Aga Khan, their 49th hereditary spiritual leader and who is believed to be a direct descendant of Prophet Muhammad. The Aga Khan visited Houston and met Gov. Abbott in March.

Abbott, the headliner at Tuesday’s Cedar Park event, told the more than 150 attendees that “Texas is forever thankful” for the contribution of about 2,500 Ismaili volunteers to relief efforts after Hurricane Harvey.

“One of the most powerful things that we saw that reverberated not just across the state of Texas, but reverberated across the entire globe was this simple fact: When you saw someone in a boat who helped someone who needed to be rescued out of that water, there was no litmus test,” Abbott said. “All that mattered was that you needed help and there was going to be a Texan there to help you.”

While no census data is available on Ismaili Muslims, Texas is home to the largest population of Ismaili in the United States, said Azim Panjwani, a member of the Aga Khan Council.

Sanji estimated that tens of thousands of people in Texas are part of the Ismaili community and a sizable number live in the Austin area. Because the community in Austin had grown, “the desire to have a facility to do more than congregate has grown,” Sanji said.

He said Ismaili Muslims have gathered in at least a few dozen community centers across the state, but only a handful were built specifically as a Jamatkhana.

Austin has had a Jamatkhana off North Lamar Boulevard for years, Sanji said, and the rented space has been used as neighborhood gathering place for outreach and civic programming, including voter registration drives, food drives and guest speakers, Panjwani said. Before the Cedar Park location, “we didn’t have a place to really be able to bring the community together,” he said.

The new Jamatkhana in Cedar Park will serve the principal place of congregation and prayer for the Ismaili community in the Austin area, Sanji said.

“It serves as a place where you can connect with people outside of the community as well as in the community,” said Sehr Charania Lalani, an Ismaili congregant. “So it feels like a warm, welcoming safe home for us in many ways.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

In upset, GOP’s Flores defeats Democrat Gallego in Texas Senate runoff
In upset, GOP’s Flores defeats Democrat Gallego in Texas Senate runoff

Casting serious doubt on Democratic hopes for a blue wave in Texas, Republican Pete Flores defeated Democrat Pete Gallego in Tuesday’s runoff election for a vacant seat in the state Senate — a seat that had been safely Democratic in previous years. Flores will represent Senate District 19 when the Legislature convenes in January, filling...
Former New Orleans mayor urges fight against resurgent racism
Former New Orleans mayor urges fight against resurgent racism

These are not normal times, former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said Tuesday of the Trump presidency, and the way to preserve American values is to confront this abnormality head on, offering as an example the way he and other Louisianans fought the rise of the former Klansman and neo-Nazi David Duke three decades ago when he made his foray into...
Wrong 911 call disrupts trial of man accused in numerous attacks
Wrong 911 call disrupts trial of man accused in numerous attacks

An aggravated sexual assault trial was disrupted Tuesday when Travis County prosecutors inadvertently played the wrong 911 call for the jury and, according to their counterparts at the defense table, violated defendant Nicodemo Coria-Gonzalez’s right to a fair trial. Coria-Gonzalez, 27, is accused of assaulting seven women between December 2015...
Central Health to reconsider budget, hold hearing about ending Sendero
Central Health to reconsider budget, hold hearing about ending Sendero

Within days of being diagnosed with lymphoma, a type of cancer, about a year ago, Austin artist Chia Guillory began treatment. Today, she’s in remission. Guillory was able to receive care immediately, she told the Travis County Commissioners Court on Tuesday, only because of the subsidy she receives from the county’s health district, Central...
Well-known Austin activist Chas Moore charged with assault
Well-known Austin activist Chas Moore charged with assault

Chas Moore, a well-known community activist and director of the Austin Justice Coalition, is being charged with assault, a misdemeanor stemming from a recent altercation at a Sixth Street establishment, his attorney confirmed Tuesday. “It is an unfortunate incident,” lawyer Brian McGiverin said. “I think it is going to be resolved...
More Stories