Minnesota's largest mosque is opening a private Islamic school this fall, the second of its kind in the state.
The Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center in Minneapolis just added ten classrooms to its second floor.
Abdulaziz Sugule is a mosque board member and co-founder of the Iqra Islamic School. He said the mosque will fight what he calls a "youth crisis" among local Somalis by teaching students to embrace their unique identity.
"Number one, they have to stick with their religion and their culture," Sugule said. "Number two, they have to go into the mainstream -- go to schools and universities and study different fields, to be citizens in this country. We're teaching all these things. We want to make sure these kids know who they are: Somali-Americans."
Sugule said the mosque has raised about $760,000 in private donations to help pay for the school, despite recent controversy surrounding Abubakar.
The FBI is investigating the disappearances of about 20 young Minnesota men, most of whom worshipped at the mosque. Authorities think the men may have left for Somalia to fight with religious extremists.
One of the early travelers who left in December 2007 indicated in a court document that he was recruited at "a house of worship." Abubakar mosque leaders have said they knew nothing about the young men's plans, and that they do not preach extremist ideology.
The Iqra school is expected to open in September with classes for kindergarten and first grade, but the mosque hopes to expand the offerings as the school grows. In addition to core subjects such as math and English, the school will also offer classes teaching the Somali language and Islamic studies. "Iqra" means "read" in Arabic.
The renovated space will also house the mosque's weekend Islamic school and summer programs.
The mosque needs to raise an additional $173,000 to pay for the project.
Abubakar purchased its building, a converted roofing warehouse, in 2005 and opened it the following year.
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