Friday, October 26, 2001

Fire doesn't derail plan for school for Muslim kids

By Bruce Schreiner
The Associated Press

        LEXINGTON — Mahmoud Shalash stared at the charred remains of a building Thursday and started dreaming again of opening a school for Muslim children.

[photo] Firefighters battle the blaze Wednesday night at the Islamic Society of Central Kentucky in Lexington, after lightning struck the building.
(Associated Press photo)
| ZOOM |
        Lightning sparked the fire that gutted the Islamic Society of Central Kentucky late Wednesday, fire officials said. The religious and social center was being converted into an elementary school that was expected to open early next year.

        But Thursday, only the brick shell of the L-shaped building stood. Most of the roof was destroyed, and yellow police tape was draped around the structure several miles south of downtown Lexington. Charred insulation flapped in the brisk wind.

        “The most important thing is there was not any loss of life,” said Mr. Shalash, the imam, or spiritual leader, of the Islamic Center of Lexington, which owns the building.

        “It is a disruption, but it is not going to stop or deter us,” he said.

        The Islamic Center bought the building in 1995. It was insured, Mr. Shalash said.

        For 15 years, Mr. Shalash and fellow Muslims had dreamed of opening the school. They pinned those hopes on the building that was engulfed in heavy smoke and flames Wednesday night.

        Nothing inside the building was salvageable, as desks and other school materials were lost. But Mr. Shalash envisioned construction of an even bigger school in its place.

        “We will start fresh and make more rooms to accommodate more students,” he said.


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