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

 

Saudi Arabia ousts head of Syria opposition government

Kerry again places onus on Hamas to accept ceasefire

Maliki meets Sunni tribal leaders in new bid to gain support

Islamists lose in Libya parliament elections

Syria oil industry suffers huge losses because of war

Israeli envoy: Our soldiers deserve a Nobel Peace Prize

Rights group denounces Kuwait's revocation of citizenship

Britain finds evidence of effort to Islamise state-run schools

Fiercest fighting in months hits Eastern Damascus

Iraq slams Jordan for hosting 'unacceptable' meeting of Sunni critics

Erdogan sacrifices Gaza mediation in favour of anti-Israel diatribes

Israel hits Al-Jazeera Gaza office

UN calls for help to vaccinate Syria toddlers against polio

Erdogan has stopped talking to Obama

Israel confirms kidnapped soldier is dead

South Sudan rebels pledge to pull troops out fails

Rouhani: More negotiations only solution for nuclear deal

Israel identify 12 soldiers killed over the weekend

UAE pledges $41 million aid for Gaza reconstruction

Security Council condemns persecution of Iraqi Christians

Deadly clashes erupt in Benghazi

27 Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza assault

One of world’s oldest monasteries falls into hands of jihadists in Iraq

Syria rebels expel jihadists from four areas in Damascus region

Kuwait revokes citizenship of owner of pro-opposition Al-Youm TV

Diplomacy intensifies to end weeks of deadly violence in Gaza

Turkey imposes curfew on Hakkari town after clashes

UAE slams Doha-based Al-Jazeera over fabricated Gaza news

Syria to Russia: Thanks for supporting our victory!

Behind the scene: Kerry criticises Israel offensive on Gaza

IAEA says Iran complying with nuclear deal

France slams and bans ‘anti-Semitic’ Gaza rally

UN chief denounces persecution of Iraqi Christians

Kerry in Cairo to stop Mideast conflict

At least 47 killed in battle for Libya airport

Gaza death toll exceeds 500 amid UN impotence

Bahrain files lawsuit to suspend Al-Wefaq activities

Shejaiya massacre: Israel’s revenge for killing of 13 soldiers in Gaza

Egypt summons Turkey charge d'affaires over Erdogan’s criticism

South Sudanese rebels launch offensive to retake key town

Lebanon detains two over shocking child beating video

Syria President maintains mum on Faruq al-Sharaa

‘Islamic State’ claims responsibility for deadly Baghdad bombings

Bloody Sunday in Gaza as nearly 90 Palestinians killed

Egypt court reduces jail sentence for award-winning activist