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Wisconsin mosques prepare to welcome Afghan refugees into community

A group of 15 mosques and Islamic organizations formed the United Muslim Resettlement Council on Sunday.
Published: Aug. 30, 2021 at 11:34 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - After two decades, the war in Afghanistan ended Monday as the final U-S flight left the country.

Thousands of Afghan refugees evacuated from the country are housed at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin. The latest numbers show 44 flights have arrived over the last week. Ten flights arrived Sunday, after another 11 on Saturday.

Area mosques are already preparing to welcome refugees to the community, including the Islamic Center of Madison. The center is one of 15 organizations statewide that make up the United Muslim Resettlement Council, a group formed Sunday to make sure refugees have access to all the services they need.

“Everybody is ready to help these people,” said president of the Islamic Center Ibrahim Saeed, adding, “Each and every organization will say we’ll do this part of the service.”

This is not Saeed’s first time helping the Afghan people. He said this effort gave him a sense of déjà vu.

“It brought back the early time when we helped the Afghanis after the Russian situation,” he remembered.

Just like then, Saeed said volunteers are already gearing up to help refugees start a new life. He is also recruiting volunteers from the Muslim Students Association at UW-Madison.

“We’ll have translation teams, we’ll have transportation teams,” he described.

It is still early, as many refugees are still being processed at Fort McCoy and across the country, and a lot is still unknown.

“We don’t know how many people are going to be settled in Wisconsin or what city,” Saeed acknowledged.

However, there are things the Islamic Center is doing to help now. Saeed is working with his wife and women in the Muslim community to collect specific types of women’s clothing to send to Fort McCoy.

“If they have new scarves, if they have new clothing that they can donate,” he said.

Saeed explained, these clothes and other Islamic items are symbols of both religion and culture.

“That keeps them...as if they are really still carrying their culture with them,” he explained, adding for some, certain pieces of clothing are also religious requirements.

While the Afghan refugees are housed at Fort McCoy, Saeed is still working on finding ways to make them feel at home.

“Can we bring somebody there to at least lead the Friday prayer?” he said, explaining they are working on that effort.

Saeed also hopes the Islamic Center can be a place of community for refugees once they leave the military base and settle into the city.

“We are hoping that they will come and join us here,” Saeed said, adding, “You’ll see people from a different part of the world.”

Even if no refugees resettle in Madison, Saeed said he is still prepared to help. He and his volunteers will work to bring resources wherever they are needed.

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