Open Mosque day a chance for harmony
Mona Shadia, Staff Writer
San Bernardino County Sun
"This is not about a religious debate, nor about a religion conversion, it's about mutual understanding."That's what Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Southern California chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations said about Open Mosque day.
The Islamic Center of Redlands is celebrating the day Sunday afternoon.
Open Mosque is a day dedicated to opening mosques around Southern California to community members who are not familiar with Muslims or Islam to learn about the culture and the religion. The main focus is to dispel misconceptions about Islam, Ayloush said.The event is organized by the Southern California Islamic Shura Council, an organization that serves as an umbrella to many Southern California Islamic centers.
Mohammad Hossain, director and founder of the Islamic Center of Redlands, said this is an opportunity for many people from Redlands and the surrounding community to ask questions about Islam.
"Many people don't know about Islam," he said. "It's kind of a visual orientation to non-Muslims, so they can get an idea about the Muslims."
For years, CAIR encouraged the Muslim community to open up their doors to allow non-Muslims a chance to get answers about Islam, Ayloush said.
"Islam is misunderstood by a large segment of the American population, and as Americans, we owe it to our neighbors to do our part in promoting activities that will create dialogue, promote understanding and encourage friendship in our own communities," he said. "And this is why an open mosque is a step in that direction."Before 9/11 this would be considered a good event to hold," Ayloush said. "After 9/11 it became a necessity, not only for Muslims, but for the whole country to remain united within our pluralistic traditions.
The day became critical after 9/11, Ayloush said.
"This is an invitation to meet, educate, appreciate each other and make friends," Ayloush said. "At the end of the day we live in the same community, our children go to the same schools. We eat at the same restaurants, it's not acceptable that we see each other everywhere without making the efforts to know each other."
Arthur Gregory said he attended last year's Open Mosque in Redlands.
The president of the Redlands Area Interfaith Council is of Baha'i faith. He said Open Mosque day is a chance for people to get reliable answers to their questions.
"It's excellent," he said about the event. "It's very much needed today because of the apprehension people have because of Mid East turmoil and the prejudice that has built up over the years about Muslims. It's a good place to meet Muslims and ask questions in a friendly atmosphere."
It's an invitation, Ayloush said, which can be accepted or denied.
"But it's also in our hands to make a positive change," Ayloush said. "Let's try to imagine what would Moses, Jesus or Muhammad do if they received such an invitation."
It's important for people to get out there and investigate on their own and find answers to their questions, Gregory said.
"When you learn more about other religions, you deepen your own," he said.