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Pittsburgh Muslim Community Leader Jamil Brookins Dies At 70

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Jamil's Global Village
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Jamil Brookins opened Jamil's Global Village in East Liberty nearly 30 years ago.

Pittsburgh’s Muslim community is mourning the loss of one of its leaders. Jamil Brookins died Sunday morning from cancer at age 70.

Brookins owned Jamil’s Global Village in East Liberty for nearly 30 years, selling imported African and Islamic goods and art. Wasi Mohamed, Executive Director of the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh, said Brookins’ impact on the community stretched far beyond the shop.

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Credit Jamil's Global Village
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Jamil's Global Village is still owned and operated by the Brookins family in East Liberty.

“He served as a bridge between parts of the world and Pittsburgh,” said Mohamed. “He also served as an important bridge between the immigrant Muslim community and the black Muslim community and the Latino Muslim community. Everyone loved Jamil.”

Jamil Brookins’ son Rafiq Brookins said his father was a pioneer who understood why people often self-segregate.

“It’s everywhere like that,” said Rafiq Brookins. “Our society has been programmed to think we’re different because the way we look or where we come from. Pittsburghers really are diverse, yet segmented.”

Mohamed said it’s no different within the Muslim community, and that groups often stick together. He said Jamil aimed to break down those barriers by regularly attending diverse prayer groups, volunteering, and reaching out to youth of various racial and ethnic identities.

Rafiq Brookins said Jamil united people across religious, cultural, racial and economic divides “just by being vocal and bringing up these issues that people normally wouldn’t talk about. It started discussion.”

Mohammed said at Brookins’ funeral Sunday, more than 100 mourners gathered with just a few hours notice.

“You have Uzbeks and Indians and Pakistanis, the black community, the Nigerians. If you looked at his funeral people from everywhere came out,” said Mohamed. “There’s few people who could bridge that many gaps that could bring that many people together.”