In an effort to bridge gaps and clear misconceptions about Islam, East Plano Islamic Center (EPIC) and Why Islam ICNA in Dallas, Texas, invited community members for an epic first hand experience about Islam.
Event Highlights included a tour of the Mosque, an amazing presentation on Understanding Islam and Muslims by Gain Peace Director Dr. Sabeel Ahmed followed by a Q&A session.
A social hour was offered as well including a delectable lunch, as well as a display of extraordinary Islamic Artwork and an opportunity to experience Arabic Calligraphy and Henna designs. The day ended with a Live observance of Islamic prayers.
The event was a big success with 175+ attendees. There was representation from the Murphy City Council, Plano Police Department, members from Churches and Synagogues, University students, Plano ISD Teachers and Harmony School Teachers.
Mary – Christian Student
Mary, a Christian student at Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, was curious about learning about Islam as a first hand experience. She tells me how she heard about EPIC by word of mouth and got to know about the event when she contacted the Mosque.
First, Mary went to attend the Friday Prayers and had a significant observance. “What stuck out to me when I visited the actual Friday service was the Imam’s sermon. He mentioned four types of people that come to the mosque.
The first was the person who was very involved in the mosque and its’ activities. The second was the person who always criticizes what the mosque is doing but never gets involved.
The third person was indifferent. They just come and pray and leave. The fourth person never comes and only shows up for major events. He said something about everyone’s heart having the right motivation for being involved at the mosque.
I think it was something like you need to want to serve God (Allah) when you come to the mosque. We have the same types of people in the churches that I go to.”
“The separation of men and women was different. In my church families and men and women sit together during our service. But once it was explained to me why they are separate it made sense.
The ladies I interacted with at the Friday prayer service were certainly “different.” I could tell their devotion to their faith affected their demeanor. It certainly felt like overall that the people at EPIC were there because they were devoted to Islam and wanted to grow in their faith. The atmosphere was serene and spiritual.”
I asked her if her perspective about Islam changed after her experience at the mosque. Mary smiles in the affirmative.
“Everyone was so open and friendly. EPIC’s hospitality was amazing!
My church could take a lesson on how welcoming they are! My interactions with EPIC and yourself have caused me to rethink some of the ideas I had about Islam and Muslims in a positive way. Muslims aren’t portrayed that way in the media.”
Another Christian student, Catherine, told me how she liked the event. Dr. Sabeel Ahmed made a great speech. I learned a lot about Islam. I didn’t realize that Christianity and Islam are so close. I’m growing in a positive outlook on Islam.”
Linda Abramson Evans
I had the privilege as well to speak to a Jewish sister: Linda Abramson Evans, Chair, Committee on Refugees United Nations Association USA- Dallas Chapter, Volunteer Guide to Refugee Service Agencies in Dallas-Fort Worth, Interfaith Council, Thanks-Giving Square as well as a Lecturer of ESL, Southern Methodist University.
“Dear Sister Suzana, Thank you for welcoming the community to Open House Mosque Day at East Plano Islamic Center. I enjoyed seeing several friends there and making new ones!”
Suzana: Linda, what brought you to the open mosque event?
Linda: “Groups that I participate in had promoted the event, including Daughters of Abraham and the Thanks-Giving Square Interfaith Council.”
Suzana: Did your perspective about Islam change after the event?
Linda: “No, this would not be necessary. In my childhood synagogue’s “Sunday school,” the study of world religions was required along with Jewish religion and history, and Hebrew for prayers. In Dallas in the 1980s, I participated in a similar program for adults at Thanks-Giving Square, in which we studied and visited the worship services of many faiths.
I later joined their Interfaith Council where we regularly host programs to highlight various faiths and to collaborate with their leadership and congregations.
During 10 years in the late 80s and 90s, monthly dinner/dialogue gatherings of the “Middle East Cousins Club” brought together local Jews and Palestinians, among others of all faiths interested in Middle East peace by forming personal friendships. Participants included Imam Yusuf Kavakci and family, and Nabil Elibiary who taught an overview of Islam that I attended years ago at Dallas Central Mosque. When my husband was critically ill in ICU in 2007, Imam Kavakci came to pray by his bedside. (My husband is fine now since a liver transplant in 2008).
Daughters of Abraham, which developed in more recent years, brings together women of Muslim, Christian, and Jewish faith to share information and personal experiences from our faith traditions.
In 2015, our chairperson of the Thanks-Giving Square Interfaith Council (Almas Muscatwalla, Muslim), envisioned and created “Faith Forward Dallas” — a coalition of clergy leaders for social justice. The three co-chairs of Faith Forward Dallas are Imam Omar Suleiman, Rev. Michael Waters, and Rabbi Nancy Kasten.
Members of the coalition includes several leaders from the Islamic Association of North Texas. IANT has also hosted interfaith dinners and events for many years.
In nearly 20 years of refugee advocacy since forming the Committee on Refugees (as a project within the United Nations Association USA-Dallas Chapter), this has supported the efforts of refugee resettlement and asylum agencies who assist those escaping persecution in their home countries.
Many are from Muslim-majority countries (or from Muslim minority groups), and currently we are very concerned about the unnecessary new travel restrictions that further delay refugees whose lives are in immediate danger.”
Suzana: How do you believe Muslims can debunk the stereotypes?
Linda: “Similar to the Open Houses hosted by mosques community-wide after 9/11, I think that welcoming the community to learn more about Islam is very helpful in this current climate of misinformation and intolerance. Such outreach expands the base of allies who can help share accurate information to debunk myths and stereotypical assumptions.
I often see Muslim friends participating in community volunteer efforts with people of other faiths, and these interactions are another opportunity to dispel stereotypes.”