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Wednesday, July 2, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Mohammad El-Moslimany, 1924 - 2003: Unified Muslim community

Seattle Times staff reporters

Mohammad El-Moslimany, a pioneer, leader and unifying voice among the area's Muslims, died Monday of a rare brain disease. He was 79.

When Mr. El-Moslimany moved to Seattle in the early 1960s, his was one of a handful of Muslim families in the area. He helped found some of the institutions that are central to the lives of many local Muslims today — including the Islamic Center of Seattle and the Islamic School of Seattle.

A Sunni Muslim, Mr. El-Moslimany reached out to local Shiite Muslims and African-American Muslims, among others, encouraging them to hold events at the Islamic School.

He worked as a professor in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, said Aziz Junejo, a friend and host of the local cable television show "Focus on Islam," on which Mr. El-Moslimany appeared.

He believed "there shouldn't be division among Muslims, because we believe in one God," Junejo said. "He was a unifier of the community and wanted all the Muslims to be together. That was his legacy."

In recent years, as Muslims from many countries moved into the area — local Muslims estimate there are about 40,000 in the state — Mr. El-Moslimany served as a gateway, said Ahmed Zayan, another friend.

"A lot of people, when they move to this area, the first things they look for is a mosque or Islamic school. He brought them into the community through the school. When a lot of families have their children together, it really brings closeness to the community."

Mr. El-Moslimany was also active in interfaith efforts, recently receiving a plaque from the Archdiocese of Seattle for his service to the Children of Abraham, an interfaith organization, said his wife of 41 years, Ann El-Moslimany.

"He had an all-inclusive approach for all people in this area," said Jowad Khaki, a friend. "His inclusiveness transcended ethnic and religious boundaries."

Mr. El-Moslimany was born and raised in Alexandria, Egypt. He came to the United States in the 1950s to earn his doctorate in electrical engineering from the University of Michigan. In the 1960s, he brought his family to Seattle, working for Boeing as an engineer.

In 1965, he helped organize the Muslim Students Association at the University of Washington. In 1973, he helped establish the first local mosque, the Islamic Center of Seattle, and in 1981, he helped found the Islamic School of Seattle, which today has about 40 students in grades one through eight.

His wife said he would often donate money and do the work of several people — from janitorial jobs to administration to teaching Arabic — just to keep the school and the ideals it represented open during financially troubled times.

"He really cared about the spirit, the feeling of what the school is all about," she said.

After Mr. El-Moslimany became ill a year ago, his wife was approached by people inside and outside the Muslim community who told her of his good deeds — from "he saved my marriage" to "he saved our mosque."

"He was a real go-between among people," she said. "Everyone trusted him and his judgment. He was very knowledgeable but very modest."

His wife also said he was an avid outdoorsman who enjoyed hiking and camping.

"He loved the Northwest," she said. "We were out every weekend, seeing the beauties of this world."

In addition to his wife, Mr. El-Moslimany is survived by his three children, Ahmed Ramsey El-Moslimany of Seattle, Rasheed El-Moslimany and his wife, Waisang El-Moslimany, of Seattle, and Samia El-Moslimany and her husband, Fouad Dehlawi, of Seattle; four grandchildren; two brothers, Ahmad Said El-Moslimany of New Jersey, and Abdel Aziz El-Moslimany of Alexandria, Egypt; and a sister, Ehsan El-Moslimany, of Seattle.

Memorials may be sent to the El-Moslimany Foundation, a foundation for the education of needy Muslim children, c/o the Islamic School of Seattle, 720 25th Ave., Seattle, WA 98122.

Cal Blethen: 206-464-8223 or cblethen@seattletimes.com;

Janet Tu: 206-464-2272 or jtu@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company

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