CHICAGO: The Islamic Center of Naperville opened the doors of its mosque on Sunday, Oct 18 in Naperville, a south side suburb of Chicago, during the Open Mosque Day celebrations. It welcomed people of all faiths in an effort to dispel misconceptions and provide a better understanding of the Islamic faith, Muslims, and their culture.
“Although we welcome visitors to visit our center throughout the year, we started this concept of Open Mosque Day about a year ago when we designated a day to make it extra special for our guests. It is now a regular event that we plan to host once or twice a year,” said Shoaib Khadri, President of the Islamic Center of Naperville (ICN).
“The primary purpose of the event was to give people of different faiths an opportunity to learn more about their Muslim neighbors and the faith that they practice. With so much negative publicity about Islam in the news, we felt it was important for people to learn what the true teachings of Islam were, learn about some common beliefs and traditions as well as give them an opportunity to ask questions that they may have.”
Visitors – young and old, Christians of different denominations, representatives from local Jewish, Hindu and Sikh faiths, diverse racial backgrounds – streamed through the doors during the entire five hour period. The local law enforcement, students from local colleges and schools and political candidates had also come in. Over 1000 people had come to be part of this all inclusive gathering. .
The activities were spread in the entire facility with the main booths and food in the gym, the congregational prayers in the prayer halls, and presentations in separate rooms. The first section by the entrance called “Meet the Imams” enabled people to meet with religious scholars.
The guests browsed through booths depicting different aspects of the Islamic faith. The booth on Prophet Muhammad provided information about the life and the teachings of the last messenger of Islam where volunteers discussed various aspects of the prophet’s exemplary character and its impact on the Muslims. A second booth was dedicated to the Quran; the holy scripture of Islam that Muslims believe was the divine revelation from God.
Another booth that attracted a lot of attention was dedicated to the topic of “Islam and Extremism” considering all the media publicity that alludes to a nexus between extremism, violence and the Islamic faith. The booth was stocked with material that clearly explained that aggression and killing of innocent people were clearly forbidden in Islam and how most violence that is politically motivated had no religious basis.
Mahfooz Khan, an active member of the Islamic Center’s interfaith group, displayed his talent for Arabic Calligraphy as he created cards with guests’ names written in beautiful calligraphy as a keepsake for their office desks. An “Artifacts and Culture” booth highlighted different aspects of Islamic culture, architecture with displays of different artifacts.
An “Islam & Science” booth illustrated the harmony between Islam and science by highlighting various scientific facts with references to the Quran and the numerous contributions of Muslims to the field of science.
The “Women in Islam” booth was buzzing with activity with people curious to learn about women’s rights in Islam and questions about why women cover their hair. Various women volunteers at the booth were happy to answer their questions while giving the female guests a unique opportunity to try on a hijab (head scarf) that the guests were allowed to take home. Volunteers also drew beautiful designs of henna on guests’ hands.
The guests enjoyed a wide array of food ranging from Mediterranean cuisine to South Asian snacks to delicious desserts with tea and coffee. There were booths with free literature on Islam and copies of the Quran for people to take home, including a separate booth with literature in Spanish.
The ICN Girl Scout troop drew interesting parallels to components of the Girl Scout law with Islamic values. The most fascinating feature of the program was the screening of a multimedia presentation titled “Journey through Time” which was produced by Yousuf Siddiqui, Chairman of ICN’s Outreach Committee. It is a beautifully articulated message highlighting six of the greatest messengers of Islam – Adam, Noah, Moses, Abraham, Jesus and Muhammad with direct references in the Quran to each of them.
An Islam 101 presentation at the top of every hour was a popular attraction as the crowds filled the room where Shahab Sayeedi presented the basics of Islam and answered guests’ questions.
The opinion of guests was overwhelmingly positive with almost everybody praising ICN’s warm hospitality. Sally Joshi, Co-Chair of the Parent Diversity Advisory Council of the 204 School District said “Events like ICN’s Open Mosque are essential in dispelling the Islamophobia that exists in society today.”
Chief David Anderson of the Lisle Police Department, aid, “The Open Mosque Day allows more people to get to know each other.”
Although the event was scheduled from 11 am to 4 pm, the visitors lingered on being part of communal harmony at its best with people of different backgrounds mingling in a warm and amicable atmosphere.