Source: Press and Sun
VESTAL — When Afzal Rehman arrived here more than 20 years ago for a medical residency, he didn’t know of any others locally who shared his religious faith.
Rehman, an Ahmadiyya Muslim, soon left Johnson City to continue his medical training, spending time in Georgia and Wisconsin, but chose to return to New York and moved to Vestal in 1997 with his wife to raise their family.
Now 52, the cardiologist with three children recalled the decision to return to the Southern Tier as an obvious choice, even though fellow members of his Muslim sect had yet to begin settling in the region at the time.
“This is the first place I came to in the U.S., so it felt like home,” said Rehman, who studied medicine in London after leaving Pakistan.
Today, so many Ahmadiyya families have joined Rehman in the Tier — about 60 people in all — that he recently started looking into constructing a Muslim community center, a plan that is currently being considered for approval by town officials.
Rehman, who is a chapter president for the national Ahmadiyya Muslim Community organization, presented the center proposal to the Vestal Planning Board during a meeting on Tuesday night.
Edward Zimmer, who has served on the planning board for more than a decade, compared Rehman’s proposal to that of the nearby India center, saying both facilities shared common goals.
“I think that’s a good setting for it, and they’re more than welcome to open up a place to meet,” Zimmer said. “That’s how the India Cultural Centre got started, and they’re doing well up there.”