One year after the tragic drowning of a young boy, his father and a family friend, Milwaukee Muslims have been playing a key role in developing safety plans to avoid similar tragedies.
The accident happened when Muhammad Arman Bin Rashidullah, 10, fell into a concrete drainage ditch near his home while chasing his ball.
Pulled by the rushing water, his father, Rashidullah Bin Abdul Hashim, 34, jumped in to save his son, followed by neighbor and friend Zakaria Bin Gonumeah, 37. The three drowned in a tragedy that hit the city.
As the long-term plan to remove the concrete channels installed in the 1960s will take more than a decade and hundreds of millions of dollars, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) reached out to leaders in Milwaukee’s Muslim community to find a quick solution to save lives, Wisconsin Muslim Journal reported.
“After the tragic loss of life of these three individuals, MMSD, the Milwaukee Fire Department and the Milwaukee Police Department began working together,” MMSD’s Public Engagement Manager Christina Taddy said.
“One of the first things we did was MMSD put up fencing along the concrete-lined waterways on parts of the Wilson Park Creek and the Kinnickinnic River.
“But that was just Step One. Step Two was having the Islamic Society of Milwaukee as a key partner to get input from the community. They called a meeting that was attended by 15-20 individuals from a variety of groups who were affected by the drownings.”
“We were very happy with MMSD’s willingness to address this issue,” said Othman Atta, executive director of the Islamic Society of Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s largest Islamic organization.
“MMSD put together a community advisory team and invited us to join. We offered our resources for translation services and advice on the best approach to reach this community.”
Along with Atta, ISM president Saleh Sarsour and Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition president Janan Najeeb served on the Kinnickinnic River Safety Advisory Committee. Atta reached out to Shaukat Ali, the leader of the Rohingya America Society, who joined the committee.
In addition to signage near the channels, the team developed door hangers, social media posts and fliers for educational outreach. The advisory committee reviewed and helped finalize the outreach materials, and assisted with translation.
“The community partners really did the heavy lifting,” said Taddy, who described herself as a facilitator in the process. “They talked with the community, brought us feedback, helped spread the word.
“We couldn’t have done any of this without these partners, especially the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition and the Islamic Society of Milwaukee. They were instrumental in making this successful and being a conduit to the community members.”
The Muslim community in the Milwaukee area is a young, vibrant community. Although there are no official demographic studies available, it is estimated that there are about 15,000 Muslims residing in Southeastern Wisconsin.
A continuous Muslim presence in the Milwaukee area can be traced back to the 1950’s.
Over the years, the various ethnic, cultural and racial groups that make up the Milwaukee Muslim community were able to come together to establish religious centers and facilities that were open to all individuals, regardless of their country of origin or background.