“Welcoming” and “Informative” – Most Common Response from Attendees at the ICN Open Mosque Day – Attended by 1200+ visitors.
Naperville, IL, April 23, 2017: The beautiful sunny spring day brought warmth outside and inside the Islamic Center of Naperville on Sunday as the unanimous response from the guests at the Open Mosque Day was that of exhilaration and congeniality.
The broader community comprised of people of all faith and all walks of life responded overwhelmingly with over1200 guests attending the Spring Open Mosque Day.
“This is our fourth Open Mosque Day in the past couple of years and it was by far, the best in terms of attendance, the variety of exhibits and the positive feedback from the guests” said Shoaib Khadri, President of the Islamic Center of Naperville. “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.”
As the visitors streamed through the doors during the entire five hour period, you could not help but notice the wide spectrum of people that this event attracted – both young and old, Christians of different denominations, representatives from local Jewish, Hindu and Sikh faiths, diverse racial backgrounds, local law enforcement, students from local colleges and schools, political candidates as well as representatives from local government and media representation from local print and TV media. The organizers estimated the number of visitors at the event to be over 1000 people based on their registration count.
The activities of the Open Mosque Day were spread across 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 guests were warmly received at the entrance by a group of young, welcoming ushers who directed them to the Registration Desk where they were handed a program guide that included the schedule for the presentations and a map of the entire facility. The first section by the entrance called “Meet the Imams” enabled people to meet with the religious scholars including the Religious Director, Shaykh Rizwan Ali, Youth Director Shaykh Omar Hedroug, the Director of the Full-Time and Evening Quran Program, Shaykh Ahmed Sayeed.
The open layout of the gym with booths along the periphery of the large area gave it an open feel where 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 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. “Extremism has no place in Islam. Islam is peace and promotes peace and harmony. Extremism and Islamophobia are the two side of the same coin of hatred” said Aadil Farid, former president of ICN.
Mahfooz Khan and his team, 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 activities with people curious to learn about women’s rights in Islam and questions about why women cover their hair. It was visited by both men and women. 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. “Trying on Hijab was an activity to humanize hijab. Said Fatima Khan, team lead for Women’s booth”
The younger kids loved the “Kids Fun Corner” where balloon twisting was done, displaying the creativity. Kids loved the balloons and face painting.
The guests enjoyed a wide array of food ranging from Mediterranean cuisine to South Asian snacks to delicious desserts with tea and coffee. The food tables were well staffed with cheerful volunteers and continually replenished with the delicious food throughout the event. This was the area visited by pretty much every single visitor.
There were booths with free literature on Islam and free copies of the Quran for people to take home, including a separate booth with literature in Spanish.
The ICN Girl Scout and Boy Scouts troop were managing the registration booth, also had their own booth where they drew interesting parallels to components of the Scout law with Islamic values. “Duty to GOD and duty to country is an integral part of Islamic tradition and faith” said Aadil Farid, former scout master of ICN troop 99.
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 – a beautifully articulated message highlighting six of the prominent messengers of Islam – Adam, Noah, Moses, Abraham, Jesus and Muhammad Peace be upon all of them, with direct references in the Quran on each of them. Mr. Yousuf Siddiqui, said “We wanted to show our guests that Islam believes in these prophets, and their common message of the worship of One God. The visitors felt very comfortable asking various questions directly to Muslims.
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 guest’s questions. Mr. Sayeedi said “We realized after the last OMD that many of our guests were eager to learn more about some of the basic teachings and practices of Islam. The Islam101 presentations provided our guests with an understanding of Islam and some of its practices while allowing them to ask questions and any clear misconceptions they may have had in a friendly and relaxed environment in the mosque.”
Many of the attendees expressed positive opinions about OMD praising ICN’s warm hospitality and the knowledge that they gained. 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. The diversity in our community is one of the cornerstones of its strength. Education, courageous conversations and friendships will lead to communities that are welcoming and inclusive.”
Naperville Police Department was invited to attend the OMD and officers enjoyed the pleasant environment and participated in various conversations.
Although the event was scheduled from 11 AM to 4 PM, the visitors lingered on enjoying the ambience of companionship, friendship, and friendly conversations – it was communal harmony at its best with people of different backgrounds mingling in a warm and amicable atmosphere.
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