Raleigh Muslims offer open house to build community ties

(Robert Richardson | CBS North Carolina)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Muslim leaders in the Triangle say the way to improve tolerance is through talking, and the Islamic Association of Raleigh is having an open house Saturday to get the conversation going.

A tour of the mosque begins at 11 a.m., and there will be question-and-answer sessions. Guests are invited to observe the midday prayer at 1 p.m., as well as listen to readings from the Quran.

The open house will also include foods from Muslim countries around the world.

“Opening our doors tomorrow is about sharing our faith, and sharing more about each other. It’s not about convincing or recruiting anyone,” Mohamed AbuTaleb said.

“Everyone can practice their own faith and their beliefs, what they hold dear, while still appreciating not only what brings us together, our similarities, but the differences and diversity that make our community rich.”

AbuTaleb is one of two imams at the mosque in Raleigh. An imam leads prayers at a mosque, similar to a pastor or rabbi.

He said at the end of each day, people of different faiths all go home to the same neighborhoods. He wants people to learn more about each other and enrich one another.

“The idea is that we want to build those one-on-one relationships and give people an opportunity … to experience what we’re about here for themselves,” AbuTaleb said. “To ask their questions, to look at our school, to look at the facility, to see the richness of Islamic culture and a part of what makes the Triangle and America the rich social fabric it is.”

Similar events in the past drew 200 to 250 people, but the mosque’s outreach director Faiz Fareed said more than 500 registered online to attend Saturday’s open house.

Fareed said most attendees, if not all, are accepting and understanding of Muslims. However, he wants to reach people who may have some hostility towards the faith.

“I would love to go and see those people who do not like us. I really do, because I go and speak to all of the people who are (already) agreeing with me,” he said.

Fareed frequently get questions that can seem offensive, but he is glad to have an opportunity to answer. He said people sometimes blankly ask things such as “Are you guys really evil? Are you guys really what I hear outside?”

He hopes the open house will be the start of addressing that, and welcomes others to contact the Islamic Center for future tours.

“They are so stressed out, just out of fear. Why should our neighbor be in fear? It’s not allowed in Islam to live in an area where your neighbor is in fear. You have to remove that fear,” Fareed said.

He said other faith groups are becoming more vocal in their support for Muslims, but he discrimination from others is getting worse. Parents of students at the school expressed concerns for their children’s safety, so the Islamic center reallocated some of its budget for sports and other activities to increase spending on security. In addition to the mosque’s own security officers, off-duty Raleigh police sometimes stand guard during daily prayers.

Imam AbuTaleb said precautions will be taken for the open house, but the worshipers will not live in fear. He said having hundreds of supporters present is reassuring.

“Seeing those allies and that community come together and engage in this conversation in a classy and civilized way, I think that goes even a longer way,” AbuTaleb said.

“Ultimately, that security comes from the heart.”

For a complete schedule of events and registration information click here.

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