With Hakeem Olajuwon towering over him, Mayor Sylvester Turner snipped the red ribbon signifying the official opening of the Library of Islamic Knowledge on Saturday.
The library, on the third floor of the stately Islamic Da'wah Center located at 201 Travis in downtown, opened as part of a larger goal to offer a comprehensive educational resource to Houston residents, including its 200,000 Muslims, according to executive director Ameer Abuhalimeh.
"The center is dedicated to the history, culture and public education of Islam," he said. "Our goal isn't just to promote a balanced perspective of Islam, but also to serve downtown Houston and the community at-large."
Abuhalimeh said the library, which cost around $2.5 million, also fosters the center's mission to become more educational in nature.
The white marble floors of the opulent library contrast with its mahogany brown tables and bookshelves - some of which remain empty. There's no shortage of gold in sight.
By year's end, Abuhalimeh expects the library to feature 25,000 books with a digital offering upward of 100,000 titles. By that time, he also anticipates the center's Museum of Islamic Art will be complete, too.
"Houston is a highly diverse city, and this facility speaks to that diversity," Turner said. "This is a place not just for Muslims, but everyone. It opens the door for people of all faiths to learn about a different part of the Houston community."
Turner emphasized that education about other faiths, regions and cultures is crucial to growth and understanding, especially in light of divisive rhetoric against others. He said he's excited the center will provide a motley of programs and speakers from across the globe.
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