TRACY – A mosque in San Joaquin County, California, has opened its doors to welcome their neighbors of all faiths, in an initiative to extend bridges of understanding in their community.
“We are trying to build a bridge,” Zabih Zaca, Vice President of the Islamic Society of Tracy, told Recordnet.com on Saturday, February 20.
“We are part of this community, and people have a right to know what we are doing. I’m so glad our neighbors are coming here. We have to find the bond between our faiths. We have to break down all the walls and get to know each other.”
Zaca was speaking during an open house hosted at the Islamic Center of Tracy under the title “Building Bridges Between Our Neighbors.”
The interfaith event was attended by a group of about 70 people, including Tracy Mayor Mike Maciel and other civic leaders.
According to Muslim leaders, the open house was an effort to bridge the gap between Muslims and other members of the Tracy community.
Inviting church leaders, city officials and members of the Chamber of Commerce, mosque leaders wanted to promote greater understanding and answer any questions visitors might have about Islam.
The event was also a chance to correct misconceptions about Islam, which spread after the rise of the so-called Islamic State (ISIL), in a county home to about 4000 Muslims.
“They have done a lot of damage to Islam and Muslims,” Islamic Society President Moheb Arghandiwal said.
“We want to let people know that these extremist groups don’t represent Muslims, Islam or us.”
The event comes two months after the Islamic center was attacked by someone who hurled Molotov cocktail.
Though the attacker failed to set the Islamic Center on fire, blackening part of a wall and a steel door, it raised concerns among the city Muslims.
“Every minute, unexpected things happen,” Zaca said. “We are not afraid of that. It is not something we are worried about.”
Maciel, the city mayor, praised the Islamic Society for holding the open house.
“You look at what’s happening on the world stage, and I think it’s important for local Muslims to help us understand what the true Muslim community is because there’s such negative representation,” Maciel said.
“You have terrible things happening in other countries that are horrific by anyone’s standards, including these people, and I think it’s very generous and courageous of them to say, ‘Please come and visit with us and get to know us.’”