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  • Naisha Chowdhury and Yasmeen Mannan

Founders Series: The Land Across Minit Stop

What’s the first picture that comes to mind when you think of PVS? Is it the bright multi-functional gym, beaming with “Panther Pride”? Is it the outdoor sports facility, with its rolling green fields, basketball court, and tennis court? Or do you think of the library, the perfect place to study, socialize, or find a new read?

We all have our own image of this institution that has become such a huge part of our lives. But once upon a time, Pleasant View School was just a dream. The Islamic school was just an idea and 1888 N Bartlett Road was just an empty plot of land. So, how did a plot of land become the flourishing school we know today? Well, one hot summer in 1996, everything changed.

Today, Muslims live in all areas of Memphis from Bartlett and Cordova to Collierville and Germantown to Lakeland and Arlington. But 40 years ago, this was not the case. Most Muslims lived in the city of Memphis (East Memphis) and Bartlett, and 30 families lived in Germantown and Cordova combined. The founders decided to build a school that would accommodate most school going children. “We felt a location in the vicinity of Memphis and Bartlett would be the best location being closer to where the majority of the Muslims live,” said Dr. Muhammad K. Zaman, one of the founders. Within this region, a group of Muslims owned a piece of land across from Minit Stop which they agreed to sell for the building of the school.

In the summer of 1996, the founders of PVS purchased a plot of land at 1888 N Bartlett Road. With its central location, as well as its proximity to one of the few mosques at the time, Masjid As-Salam, 1888 Bartlett Road was the perfect spot for a budding Islamic school to blossom. But before every rainbow, there's a storm. And this was no thunderstorm--it was a full-on tornado.

When local neighborhoods heard that an Islamic school was being built in the area, they started writing petitions to the government to prevent Muslims from coming in. In response to this, a meeting was held at a local church where nearly 100 people gathered. Dr. Ibrahim F. Benter, one of the founders of PVS, said, “ [Their] first comment was: ‘Muslims are terrorists and we don't want them in our neighbourhood.’” But the founders had a lifelong dream and they were not ready to give up just yet. They talked to the people at the church, “[we] explained what Islam is and what the [PVS] project was about,” Benter said.

After long conversations and much patience and convincing, both the founders and the local residents came to an understanding: Islam is no scary religion and PVS would serve the entire Memphis community by raising and teaching children to become leaders and ambassadors of their faith.

A flyer advertising the Muslim Community Center of Memphis and the progress with the Islamic School, circa 1996

A letter written on August 15, 1995 from the Tennessee Secretary of State congratulating the Muslim Community Center for their successful purchase of the charter for the new nonprofit organization


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