‘There are so many things in common between us’
By Lee V. Gaines, Chicago Tribune
Shaykh Azfar Uddin, the imam at the Islamic Foundation North Mosque, said when the prime minister of Spain called the recent deadly terror attack in Barcelona an example of “jihadi terrorism,” he did not know the true meaning of the word jihad.
The imam’s comments came during the question-and-answer portion of an open house event hosted at the mosque on Saturday’s first National Open Mosque Day.
Questions about jihad and the clothing worn by Muslim women were answered by the imam and other representatives of the mosque. The imam explained that jihad simply means “to struggle.”
“There are different types of jihad…Your jihad could be not to gossip,” he said.
Answering questions like these and providing an opportunity to educate non-Muslim community members about the religion while clearing up misconceptions about Islam is the intent of the National Open Mosque Day, according to the director of outreach at the mosque, Sabeel Ahmed. He said the mosque, located near Libertyville and Waukegan, was one of about 100 mosques participating in the national open house day.
For details on the National Open Mosque Day by ICNA, click here.
“There’s so many misconceptions that are out there, especially after what happened in Barcelona and different places,” he said, referring to terrorists acts carried out in the name of Islam. “We want to make sure our fellow Americans get to know the correct info about Islam from Muslims and the source, which is the Quran. This is giving them the opportunity to get the information.”
The dozens who attended Saturday’s event were treated to lunch, free copies of the Quran and a brief lecture from Ahmed about the key tenants of the religion, which has over 1 billion adherents worldwide.
Several women in attendance asked why Muslim women are required to cover themselves.
A member of the mosque community, Helena Abushamma, replied that “this is not a Muslim thing. God from the beginning told both men and women to dress modestly. The Virgin Mary is my role model when it comes to fashion.”
Abushamma said she dresses modestly because she doesn’t want to “become a sexual object for men or anyone else” and she’d rather be known for who she is as a person. And, she said, wearing a hijab and dressing modestly is just one small part of being a good Muslim.
“What’s more important is how I act, how I treat people and how I control myself,” she said.
As a follow-up, Ahmed explained to the crowd gathered that men are also required to dress modestly.
“Men have to control ourselves and our sisters,” he said. “We have to control ourselves with the guidance of God.”
Waukegan Mayor Sam Cunningham praised the mosque for opening its doors to the community and for the local Muslim community’s willingness to educate their non-Muslim peers. He said he the event had inspired him to host something similar at Waukegan City Hall.
“There is always another side of the story, and this is the side people need to hear about and understand and be educated on,” he said. “So I’m saying to you that I want to extend the doors of city hall that we do this on a night and we invite those into the city of Waukegan and city hall to give all of us a better understanding and better education about the Islamic faith.”
Lynn Hepler, a Vernon Hills resident, said she attended Saturday’s open house because she’s angry at the rhetoric about Muslims and other minority groups coming from the Trump administration.
“These people are open about what they believe. It’s not what I believe, but it’s OK. It’s not necessary. That’s part of the whole U.S. freedom of religion thing,” she said. “If we stick to our constitution and the higher ideals that brought this country together, I think we’re going to be way better off than what I’m seeing demonstrated now on a national level.”
Gloria Walsh, a Mundelein resident who attended the open house, said she was also dismayed by the rhetoric around Muslims at the national level.
“I have family members who are Muslim, and I wanted to learn more, but also just with everything going on in the country and the world, you feel like you just want to be supportive,” she said.
Hepler said she thought what the mosque was doing was “brilliant,” and that fear and hatred is often driven by a lack of interaction between people of differing backgrounds and belief systems.
Ahmed said the National Open Mosque Day is a tool to foster interaction between Muslims and people of different faiths. He said there’s so much the mosque and other religious organizations can do together to combat big problems in the community and the world.
He said he hopes by continuing this event as an annual tradition it will pave the way toward more interfaith collaboration and erode the anxiety people have about those who are different from them.
“The fear of the unknown people may have about each other, different races and nationalities, hopefully that will go away and people will realize there are so many things in common between us as humans and believers,” Ahmed said.
Click here for details on the National Open Mosque Day by ICNA.
Article Courtesy: Chicago Tribune