Across Eastern Massachusetts Sunday, Muslims gathered, shoulder to shoulder, to begin afternoon prayers. But at the back of the room at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center in Roxbury, a crowd of Christians, Jews, agnostics, and atheists had gathered to observe.
On the first Massachusetts Open Mosque Day, hundreds of non-Muslims attended the center and 17 other area mosques to observe religious practices and ask questions about the faith and its perception. “We need to engage in genuine community, camaraderie, fraternity, sorority: people coming together, learning about their cultures, their backgrounds, what people are struggling with,” said Sheikh Yasir Fahmy, the senior imam at the cultural center, in an interview.
At the center, Muslims and non-Muslims sat together to drink chai and eat sambusas, children played games and tasted ice cream, women and girls tried on headscarves, and people took home free paperback copies of the Koran. Mohammed Lali, a Jamaica Plain resident who immigrated to the United States from Tanzania in 1998, said he was moved by the large turnout.
“I didn’t expect we would have this [many] people,” said Lali, 40, who teaches the Koran to children at the cultural center and was there with his 9-year-old daughter, Muthana. “There’s a lot of trash talk about us,” he said. “But today maybe they come over, they look at us, how we do it, how we worship. It’s totally different from what they hear from the news, maybe, sometimes. We don’t promote violence.”
While mosques are always open to the public, Sunday’s event was a declaration that “they are part of the fabric of the Commonwealth and an inclusive part of this community,” said John Robbins, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Massachusetts, in a telephone interview.
Last year, the FBI reported a dramatic increase in the number of anti-Muslim crimes in the United States, and President Trump’s efforts to ban travelers from several predominantly Muslim countries have stoked controversy about Islam.
“The Massachusetts Muslim community opens its doors today and every day to combat the pervasive fear that so many Americans feel about their faith,” said Robbins.
Source: The Boston Globe