Islamic Society of Brookings

A center for discussion and community


Megan Bertsch, Copy Editor

Started by over 100 students and a professor of engineering in the 1970s, the Islamic Society of Brookings has been an important part of the community for almost 45 years.

Though it was once a house on Eighth Street, the Islamic Society building now sits directly across the street from the South Dakota State University campus with its doors open to anyone interested in what they do, providing tours and important discussions.

“Some people are curious to come and listen,” said Dr. Fathi Halaweish, Islamic Center board director and SDSU chemistry professor. “They come and sit down with us, mostly high school and university students, they would like to know what Islam is, what does it mean in terms of relationships, in terms of terrorism, in terms of women’s rights. All the questions on the mind of everyone right now.”

The Islamic Center of Brookings hosts hundreds of people every year from different schools, groups and churches. They are happy to share their faith and are always seeking ways to collaborate with all religions and better the community.

“The community here is very welcoming for everybody,” Halaweish said. “We have an excellent relationship with all the churches… When there are issues in town, we all get together from different faiths and see what we can do for the community.”

After managing the Islamic Society of Brookings for over 25 years, Halaweish has teamed up with local religious leaders to establish the Brookings Interfaith Council.

The group meets once every month to host potlucks, gather and discuss how to resolve issues in the community. Free for anyone to join, volunteers of the organization are Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Baha’i, Buddhist and non-theists, with a constantly changing venue to ensure all members feel included.

According to the council’s mission statement, the group “cultivates peace and justice by engaging in dialogue to bridge religious and cultural differences and to bring the wisdom and values of our traditions to bear on the challenges facing our society.”

The Islamic Society of Brookings is also a home for many international students at SDSU and muslim citizens of Brookings. They serve as a mosque for students far from home, hosting prayer 5 times a day (though this is temporarily suspended due to COVID-19), as well as a main prayer on Friday.

“I think it’s just a good service for international students, because you know when you are studying abroad, what you are missing most is a place to practice your religion,” Halaweish said.

The Islamic Society of Brookings wants to welcome everyone and encourages questions. They emphasize the importance of promoting peace and breaking down negative stereotypes through conversations.

“The Islamic Society of Brookings is here to answer everybody’s questions and for them to know Islam is a religion of peace. Not what you hear from other sources.” said Halaweish.  “People made a bad name for Muslims. They are also terrorists to us. They are not Muslim by all means, because in Islam, it’s forbidden to kill or hurt anybody.”

Halaweish stresses what makes all religions alike, and the lessons they teach like being honest, supporting one another, helping others and being kind. Through everything the Islamic Society of Brookings does for and with the community, he works to create that message.

“All the religions are taught the same lesson of peace. Sometimes that gets twisted to our own human interest,” Halaweish said. “A real believer of God or a religion would never hate anybody, they would support them. That’s our religion.”