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Filed under: News and photos — admin     2:51 pm June 4, 2011

It was not “Pomp and Circumstance” but a lilting song chanting the many names of Allah that played last night as the 14 graduates of Miraj Islamic School marched into the Tompkinsville school auditorium — strong and smiling young men followed by young women wearing chalk-white hijabs under their mortarboards.

Then the first-ever graduating class of Staten Island’s only Islamic school took their places on stage in front of a cloth mural of the New York skyline for an emotional ceremony to mark their departure from a place that had become like a family: Their bonds forged by shared values and the drive to succeed, as well as world events that led them, from a young age, to assert their Americanism to the outside world.

“This graduation is symbolic of our work to get the school started,” said Ferid Bedrolli, who co-founded the school in 1996 on the site of the then-new Albanian Islamic Cultural Center.

“What we believe is they will be good leaders of our community, our city and our country.”

Three of last night’s graduates were among the first five students of the school, a prekindergarten-through-grade 12 institution that now has a student body of 225, and is renowned for its high academic standards and strong religious education.

“Our children’s success is our success, as they symbolize our vision, our devotion and our commitment to excellence,” said Principal Jehan Tewfik, lauding the group for all receiving advanced Regents diplomas and being college-bound.

“Islam has always been a part of the American story, and every day, American Muslims are helping write our story. As our first class of 2011 is graduating, a new age of professionals and scholars is emerging to shape the world in ways beyond our imagination.”

More than 200 parents, friends, teachers and family members sat at round tables eating hummus, olives, pita bread, rice and roast chicken during the three-hour celebration, which balanced somber ceremony with festive togetherness.

Among the keynote speakers were the ambassador of Albania to the United Nations and Kosovo’s councilman, as well as the Rev. Richard Michael, retired pastor of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Stapleton and chaplain at Wagner College, Grymes Hill.

Alongside photos of the graduates, an American flag was surrounded by smaller flags representing the many countries where they have roots. Students themselves spent weeks sewing the silver and blue fabric that covered the walls, and making the artwork to depict their New York theme.

The backdrop of the skyline, a mural ordered online, had arrived only days before the ceremony with the Twin Towers, unexpectedly, still prominent (“We believe in them, in the same way I’m originally from Egypt and believe in the pyramids. Even though they disappeared, we will always believe,” said the principal).

All of the graduates spoke, describing their strong education and their hope for the future, infusing their speeches with the word “Inshalla” — “God willing.”

“Knowledge without morals is like a tree without roots; the mission of Miraj is to help develop students intellectually and morally,” said Valedictorian Getuarb Duka.

“As we embark on new adventures let us never forget the golden rule to treat others the way we want to be treated.”

The graduates are: Iqrah Chaudhry, Getuarb Duka, Arber Islami, Elmedin Mujovic, Amna Mukhtar, Muhammad Mukhtar, Gazvan Musa, Ali Piracha, Saba Qurban, Bahia Samhan, Muhammet Zihni Vardar, Melike Vardar, Adis Vejselovski, Ekrem Yetiskul.

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