First Published: 2012-07-09

 

Visit Your Local Mosque This Ramadan

 

Research shows that American mosques have strong outreach in their communities, are involved in interfaith fellowship, and good works. Muslim congregants are patriotic Americans and good neighbours, writes Hesham Hassaballa.

 

Middle East Online

On June 22, the Justice Department indicted a Texas man for threatening a Tennessee mosque that is currently under construction. According to the indictment, last September, Javier A. Correa left a message on the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro's phone allegedly saying: "On Sept. 11, 2011, there's going to be a bomb in the building." This is the latest in a long-pitched battle in that small Tennessee town over the construction of a mosque. Opponents of the mosque worry about radical Islam and Sharia law: "We don't want Shariah law. We don't want a Constitution-free zone in Rutherford County [Tennessee]," said attorney Joe Brandon Jr. on National Public Radio.

Yet, the fight in Murfreesboro is nothing new. Muslim communities across the country have had to deal with angry opponents of the construction of mosques in their communities, including right here in my hometown of Chicago. Some of these fights are over traffic or storm water drainage concerns, but in many cases, there is overt hostility to Islam itself and, of course, wild suspicions of terrorism and impossible accusations of seeking to supplant the US constitution with Sharia. Anyone who looked at the facts about mosques in the United States would wonder why there is so much hostility.

In 2011, researchers conducted a comprehensive study of mosques across America. The second of these reports was released in May, and it showed that mosques are a force for good in the communities in which they reside. Among the survey's findings: 63% of mosques conducted outreach activities in the past year, such as open houses for neighbors; 79% are involved in interfaith activities. Contrary to the perceptions of many, the overwhelming majority (70%) of Friday sermons are conducted in English.

The vast majority (88 percent) of American mosque leaders say domestic abuse should be addressed. A majority of mosque leaders (71 percent) agreed that their mosque is working for social justice, and African American mosques are even more likely (87 percent) to be active in social justice. What's more, mosques compare favorably to other houses of worship in terms of social services. Surveys show that only 26 percent of congregations of other faith traditions are involved in providing some type of health programming as compared to 45 percent of mosques. Only 29 percent of other religious congregations are involved in community organizing activities, while 47 percent of mosques are involved in these types of activities. (The full study can be read here: (http://www.cair.com/Portals/0/pdf/The-American-Mosque-Report-2.pdf)

Of course, the report also showed that mosques have their challenges: Mosques need support and inspiration in establishing and strengthening weekend schools and youth activities, and the number of American-born religious leaders, or Imams, need to be increased. In addition, mosques need to be made more women-friendly. Nevertheless, the facts show that, contrary to being separatist, hostile enclaves dedicated to the destruction of America -- as some are wont to believe -- American mosques are positively contributing to the strength, welfare, and success of our country.

Given their openness, outreach, and community involvement, opposition to mosque construction is all about ignorance: Ignorance about who American Muslims are and what they are about. It is about ignorance of Islam and continuing wrongfully to project the actions of criminals on an entire faith and its adherents.

The cure for this ignorance is engagement. It is my hope and prayer that, in the months and years to come, 100% of mosques hold open houses, and I hope and pray that many, many of its neighbors take advantage of them.

The month of Ramadan is right around the corner (July 20 – August 18), and mosques across the country will be filled with worshipers breaking their fast and praying into the night. Come into the mosque one night and see what Islam is really all about. You will find that your Muslim neighbors will welcome you with open arms. Yes, there may be some criminals that lurk within the American Muslim community, abusing the sanctity of the mosque to further their evil aims – as there may be in nearly all religious and other social institutions. But they do not represent the whole, which is vastly, overwhelmingly comprised of good honest people who are patriotic Americans and love their country. As the Tennessee mosque case shows, there are people hard at work trying to whip up fear and division among us. We, the American people, cannot let them succeed.

Hesham A. Hassaballa is a Chicago-based doctor and writer. His latest book is Noble Brother: The Story of the Last Prophet in Poetry (Faithful Word Press).

Copyright © 2012 Hesham A. Hassaballa -- distributed by Agence Global

 

Trump accuses Assad of committing 'horrible' crimes

Tunisia parliament passes bill to 'end all violence' against women

Egypt creates 'national council' to fight 'terror'

Battle on Lebanon-Syria border proves difficult for Hezbollah fighters

Climate change will make wildfires more common

Iran 'successfully' tests satellite launch rocket

Israeli forces attack Palestinians returning to sensitive holy site

Turkish PM tells German execs they are not part of ‘tension’

UAE agent Dahlan attends Hamas-led parliament

Ceasefire deal reached on Syria-Lebanon border

Al-Jazeera rejects Netanyahu's accusations of 'incitement'

A hunt for the missing in the ruins of Mosul

Rights group says Iraqi unit executed Mosul prisoners

Etihad posts $1.87 bn loss in 2016

France to conduct asylum seeker checks in Libya

Palestinians to return to Jerusalem holy site

Subdued atmosphere in Jerusalem's Old City

Britain lifts Tunisia travel warning

Police in Cairo kill 4 suspected in mid-July attack

Bahrain charges 60 in mass trial

Erdogan says Israeli removal of holy site metal detectors not enough

Tripoli asks Italy to send ships in fight against traffickers

Egyptian state seizes land from ‘squatters’

Jerusalem standoff continues over 'advanced' cameras

UN says majority of Yemen children in need of immediate aid

Syrian civilians turn to smugglers to flee Raqa fighting

Clashes erupt in Eastern Ghouta despite Syria truce deal

Isolated Qatar criticises new Saudi bloc blacklist

Top EU court keeps Hamas on terror list

Iran’s deputy FM: US sanctions vote 'hostile'

Two Moroccan UN peacekeepers killed in C. Africa attack

Rival Libyan leaders agree to ceasefire, elections

Palestinians demand removal of Jerusalem 'security' measures

Key challenges in Libya's chaos

Where Afghanistan is heading and what it means for the Arab Gulf

Saudi raises $4.53 bln in oversubscribed bond issue

Jordanian mourners chant 'death to Israel'

14 Saudis face ‘imminent’ unfair execution says Amnesty

Rival Libyan leaders hold talks in France

Amnesty International urges EU to 'reset' Turkey relations

Erdogan urges Muslims to ‘protect’ Jerusalem

US sanctions protecting Iranian tech sector

Air strike kills civilians in Syria despite truce

278 Europe-bound migrants rescued off Libya

Beirut, the upcoming start-up hub in MENA region