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LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (AP) – La Crosse has a relatively small Muslim community, but is ready to help any Afghan immigrants who settle in the area.

Wahhab Khandker says the Othman Bin Affan Mosque in La Crosse has provided resources to Afghans treated in hospitals in La Crosse and is working with a larger group to help raise funds and supplies for the nearly 13,000 Afghans staying at Fort McCoy.

“We’re in touch to ask what we can do there,” Khandker said. “We will take care of everyone who comes to La Crosse. “

Fort McCoy is one of eight military installations across the country housing Afghan immigrants who fled their country after the United States ended its 20-year military mission in Afghanistan last month, La Crosse Tribune reported.

Khandker is a member of Afghan Refugee Assistance Coordination La Crosse, a group created in August to support Afghan immigrants staying at Fort McCoy while awaiting their permanent living conditions in the United States. The group consists of 88 people from 36 organizations and has met regularly to raise funds and spread the message that immigrants are welcome in western Wisconsin. Khandker does not use the term “refugee” to describe newcomers and prefers to call newcomers “immigrants”.

Khandker, professor emeritus of economics at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse who retired last year, has not been to Fort McCoy but maintains contact with the people who did. Through his work with the La Crosse group, Khandker has identified three areas of need:

Clothing: He said many immigrants left Afghanistan with the clothing on her back and described a woman wearing the same dress every day.

Communication: He said most immigrants still have relatives in Afghanistan and have difficulty in contacting them.

Food: Muslims demand that meat intended for human consumption be slaughtered in accordance with Islamic law. Khandker said there is only one place in La Crosse that sells halal food.

Khandker said immigrants from Fort McCoy were able to meet their spiritual needs. Muslims pray five times a day and can do it alone.

“Prayer does not necessarily require the clergy,” he said. “It’s just between you and God. It is not fancy or difficult to do. We don’t need a middleman.

Khandker said Fort McCoy has plenty of space for worshipers to pray, but there is a shortage of Korans. He said a Chicago Muslim organization has provided 1,500 Korans since the immigrants arrived.

While Othman Bin Affan is the closest mosque to Fort McCoy, Khandker said it was not large enough to provide large-scale assistance. He said the local mosque provided a dozen Korans and prayer rugs to treated immigrants in Gundersen.

“We are only 60 people here,” he said. “We are limited in what we can do. “

Khandker said if Afghan immigrants choose to settle in La Crosse, the mosque will likely require larger facilities. Arrived at La Crosse in 1983, he saw the Muslim community grow steadily. A call to prayer last week drew nearly 20 men into the mosque.

“When I arrived in La Crosse, I didn’t know any Muslims here,” he says. “Our members are either doctors, professors, engineers or business people. We provide a lot of service to the community. We contribute as much as possible.

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Julio V. Miller

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