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Islamic center offers counseling

By Ed Brock

Shadiyah Mack was about to get married, but there were a few aspects of her faith as a Muslim that she needed to go over with her husband.

"Both parties have to understand their responsibilities in the marriage and each party has to know each other's rights," said 43-year-old Mack of College Park.

So Mack went with her husband to the Center for Islamic Counseling and Guidance in Jonesboro. Their marriage, now in its second year, is the better for it, Mack said.

"A lot of times when you have a third party addressing these issues the other person really listens to that third party," Mack said.

That is part of the CICG mission, said the center's Vice President Tariq Khan.

"Our major objective is family education," Khan said.

In its small office space at 696 Mt. Zion Road near Tara Boulevard, CICG offers classes and counseling on marriage and divorce, arbitration of disputes, teen counseling, "aqiqa" or naming ceremonies and more. The center caters to the Muslim community for the entire metro Atlanta area and also provides information on the Islamic faith to anyone who is interested.

Four years ago Khan, 52, met his partner in the center, Daoud Bojang, 42, at a friend's house.

"From that day we learned we had a lot of things in common," said Bojang, a native of Gambia who lives in Jonesboro and is the CICG president. "I looked at him as being very active and very honest."

Bojang already had the idea for the center's Web site, www.islamiccounseling.org, and he also saw in Khan a partner for that mission.

After creating the Web site Khan and Bojang would respond to e-mails and make counseling conference calls to their clients. They opened the physical center about two years ago. They say counseling is often more effective when the recipients are taken out of their home environment where they feel in control and are less likely to listen.

And after they leave the center it is up to the clients' love of Allah to enforce what they learned in the counseling sessions, Khan said.

Originally from Pittsburgh, Khan once worked as a counselor in prisons in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Much of the counseling he does at the CICG is needed because there are teachings in the Qur'an, the book of the teachings of the profit Mohammed, that even many Muslims do not know but which apply to their situations.

The CICG's "Teen Junction" programs also are an important service, said 22-year-old Jameelah Abdur Rashid who coordinates the teen program. The programs, one junction group for boys and another for girls, are designed to strengthen the teens for everyday life.

They offer tips on how to survive school, family and "every situation that they might encounter," Rashid said.

"We have the center to back us up so if the teen has a problem that is just too huge we can send them on to the center," Rashid said.

At the same time, Rashid said, the programs are designed to be fun and engaging.

"We don't want them to feel like they're here to just sit down in a chair and get counseling," Rashid said. "We want them to feel like they are part of something."

A girl's teen junction discussion workshop will be held at the center Saturday from 2 to 5 p.m.

The CICG's clients are from many different cultures, Khan said, from African Americans and native Africans to people from Arab cultures.

"It's always a learning experience because everybody is brought up differently but in the same beliefs," Khan said.

And teaching the truth about Islam to non-Muslims is very important to them as well, Khan said.

"There is a lot of misinformation about Islam," Khan said.

The CICG is a non-profit agency and the services are free. The center is supported by donations.

A calendar of classes and events is available at the CICG Web site. For more information call (678) 422-3910.