In the early 1980s, Dr Kimat Khatak and Dr M. Saleem Bajwa, two doctors from Holyoke born in Pakistan, founded the Islamic Society of Western Massachusetts, whose West Springfield campus has grown to meet the religious and social needs of Muslim families and to host interfaith events.
“He was a sincere and strong leader as well as a down-to-earth friend,” said Bajwa of Khatak, who died Jan. 7 of complications from COVID-19. “He was loved by Muslims and non-Muslims from all walks of life. “
by Khatak published obituary reflects similar feelings of other people who knew him in his secular and religious roles.
Bajwa said the two met shortly after moving to the area and that Khatak completed a cardiology fellowship at Baystate Medical Center in 1979.
“He was looking to start a practice and I was exploring the same,” Bajwa said.
“Two doctors were retiring in Holyoke. We both bought these practices and started independent practices in September 1979. He practiced internal medicine and I practiced internal medicine and pulmonology. This is how we met and continued as close colleagues and friends. We were and remain affiliated with Holyoke Medical Center.
Bajwa, who had been involved in establishing Islamic centers in New York City before settling here, said Khatak had become “very enthusiastic” about establishing one in western Massachusetts.
“There were a lot of Muslim families here and Muslim students on campuses, but no organized society or center,” Bajwa recalls.
“Dr Khatak became very enthusiastic and we started to meet families every week, first in our homes, for church services as well as social connections. “
Bajwa said the “families were mostly of Arab and Indo-Pakistani origin, and there were a good number of families who had been established here for a long time.”
“Their families were also enthusiastic about having an Islamic society and center and we as doctors were accepted as leaders, influential and respected, with great love,” Bajwa said.
“We founded the company in 1983 with Dr. Khatak as the first president and I served as treasurer and religious leader. A year later, we bought a small house with good land in West Springfield and made it the center of the company.
Bajwa noted that the company has “grown enormously” since then and has expanded its facilities “on several occasions”.
“From the start we realized the need to develop affiliation with other religious communities and participated in what is now the Greater Springfield Interfaith Council,” he said.
Bajwa called Khatak, who came to this country in 1974 to continue his medical education, “outspoken and outspoken, but respectful”.
“He loved to socialize, fully enjoying the American Dream,” Bajwa said.
“He was also very connected to his native country. He told stories about his childhood in a small town in Pakistan, his university life and later his career in the Pakistan armed forces.
He added that they support each other in all endeavors related to Islamic society and their faith. They were often quoted in the press when hate crimes were committed against Muslims and when their West Springfield center was vandalized. The two men had been profiled when they traveled and passed through immigration in the aftermath of September 11.
They condemned these attacks as the work of Arab terrorists, and told a reporter on the 10th anniversary of September 11, that they were committed by people “without faith or with a faith that has nothing to do with the dominant religion”.
“There is no clash of civilizations. A jihad has not been fought for 500 years, ”said Khatak, interviewed at the time and referring to the war against the Christian crusades. “I’ve been here 36 years and I just take care of the sick in America. I love my patients and my patients love me.
Bajwa said that “Khatak’s patients and colleagues all loved him.”
“He wanted to continue serving his patients, until his last minute of life, and that’s how he left this world,” Bajwa said, adding that Khatak, who would have turned 84 next month, had continued in private practice until shortly before. his death.