With rhetoric surrounding Muslims heating up during the election season, Islamic centers across the nation threw open their doors on Sunday to provide neighbors with firsthand knowledge of their religion.
The Islamic Center of Conejo Valley in Newbury Park, California was one of many others to participate in Open Mosque Day, an initiative started in 2002 by the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California. With the center in its sixth year of hosting the event, over 300 people turned out for the open house.
Special displays were set up so visitors could learn about Islamic culture, including art, architecture and the significance of the hijab—the head scarf worn by many Muslim women.
The day was highlighted by the afternoon prayer at the center and a talk given by Imam Ahmed Patel, who has been the religious leader at the mosque since 2004. Imam Patel gave a brief overview of the five pillars of Islam, practices Muslims follow to lead a good life, before delving into a question-and-answer session.
fielded questions touching on a variety of topics, such as Islamic funeral practices and the differences between the Shia and Sunni branches of Islam.
One person asked about what is being done about radicalization among Muslims.
Patel said putting a stop to it begins at home; it is up to parents to teach their children, and mosques provide the necessary tools and support.
Parents have to impart into their children the importance of peace. If you look at the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad you will find statements after statements on peace.
The imam said that while it’s impossible to prevent everyone in the world from becoming radicalized, the center has done a good job at keeping children in the Conejo on a straight path. He said this year’s event was the biggest ever for the center and that it’s great to see new faces come in each year.
“We’re succeeding in bringing to the community the understanding that we’re just like them,” he said. “It’s wonderful that we can teach them exactly what Islam stands for instead of them learning from the media or some other source.”
Azhar Ghani, who prays at the mosque, said the current election cycle has played a part in this year’s high turnout.
“It’s caused a lot of people to try and understand Islam, what it means and what people do . . . and has driven them to come to (the center) to meet a Muslim. A lot of the people who I met got to know Muslims and understand the religion a lot better.”
Sandy Lieu, who worships at the Chinese Christian Church of Thousand Oaks, said he felt welcomed at the mosque. He said that despite theological differences among people of different faiths, he hopes events such as Open Mosque Day can bring together people of various backgrounds.
Download this useful resource if your Mosque is looking to host an Open Day.