59 News special report: Islamic community finds home, acceptance in Beckley

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BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) – Dr. Hassan Jafary is a well know psychiatrist in the Beckley community, seeing numerous patients at his Eisenhower Drive office daily. On his walls are trinkets and signs that remind him of home in Pakistan.

“The reason I came to West Virginia was because one of my older brothers, who recently passed away, he came to West Virginia in 1978 in the Oak Hill area,” Dr. Jafary said.

Joining his brother first in 1989, Dr. Jafary traveled a bit and studied pulmonary medicine at Cornell University before coming back and opening his practice in Beckley. While he spoke fluent English, he said his thick Pakistani accent created a barrier between himself and people in southern West Virginia.

“I would go to Wendy’s and it was very uncomfortable to order in a drive thru because they said ‘What? What are you saying?'” Dr. Jafary laughed. “You have to go inside and say give me number 4, whatever it is.”

Language is not the only barrier that exists between locals and members of Dr. Jafary’s community. He also recalls a few instances where he dealt with racist remarks from strangers.

“There were a few experiences that people call you names or something, that was many years back,” Dr. Jafary recalled. “Or one time someone tried to damage my car.”

After living in the community for several years, Dr. Jafary said more people grew accepting of him and his family, who started to trickle in to America from Pakistan to be closer to one another. Dr. Jafary and his family practice Islamic traditions with each other, and also with an extended family at the Islamic Center of Beckley.

Together this small, but intimate community led by people like Vice President of Beckley Islamic Association, Wadi Kabbara, gather for congregational prayer on Friday afternoons.

“It’s a time where we communicate with God really and it’s a place where the profit says that’s where you rest, it’s where you leave all your earthly problems behind and focus on what’s in front of you — which is God,” Kabbara explained.

Like Dr. Jafary, these men and women moved to Beckley from all corners of the world. They are grateful to have a place where they can practice their religion, as well as a community that is been fairly accepting of their cultures.

“I think the best way to present it is to be good to other people, to help others..and to have good communication with people of other faiths and people of other cultures,” Kabbara added.

Their Imam, or prayer leader, said the Islamic Center is always a home to people of other faiths who would like to learn more or pray with them.

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