A shining example of Arkansas philanthropy
In Fayetteville, Ark., the small Jewish community used a property that was owned by the University of Arkansas as their house of worship.
They needed a facility of their own as the community was growing.
There was a beautiful property in a residential area, a large house built by a protege of Frank Lloyd Wright, called “The Butterfly House.”
The City Council of Fayetteville approved the purchase of this property, which was in an upscale area.
The residents of that area got a petition to stop it, claiming traffic concerns, even though only two days a year would there be any significant traffic at that house.
The Jewish community, not wanting to create a problem, withdrew their bid to buy “The Butterfly House.”
At a Rotary meeting, the president of the Fayetteville synagogue discussed this dilemma with Fadil Bayyari, a local businessman who immigrated many years ago from the Middle East.
Bayyari said, in essence, that it was unconscionable to hinder the development of a house of worship.
He said, “I will build you a synagogue.”
Our daughter, who is a member of that congregation, informed me that Bayyari was also the fund-raising chairman.
The past few years, my wife and I have kept in touch with Bayyari every time we go to visit our family in Fayetteville.
While visiting Bayyari this November, we talked about the local Islamic community in our area of Pennsylvania.
We agreed that local Muslim communities across the nation could benefit from becoming involved in the kind of positive associations and contributions that Bayyari has pioneered.
Bayyari has spoken to students at the University of Arkansas about being involved in the local communities, and he speaks one-on-one with members of the Islamic faith about the blessing of the United States.
Bayyari stated he could never reach the level of success he has achieved almost anywhere else in the world.
Bayyari also spoke to me about some members of the Islamic faith who, despite having migrated to the United States, dislike this country.
Bayyari’s reply to the individual he was speaking about was: “Why did you come to this country in the first place?”
My challenge to local Islamic congregations is to become as involved and supportive of groups of all faiths (and even non-believers) as Bayyari has been in Fayetteville.
Bayyari knew instinctively that he had to become involved in the larger general community if he was to become a success in the United States.
In January 2014, Fadil Bayyari will receive an award from the organization, Muslim American Community Enhancement.