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Old 10-23-2010, 11:33 AM   #1 (permalink)
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inviting non muslims into mosques

There's been many of these open days organised over the years, especially in the west in order to increase awareness of muslim beliefs and lifestyle. some of these open days have attracted the curious, some have attracted those with an axe to grind. I think in most cases all are welcome. it gives muslims a chance to say what they feel and get their message across.

I know in Sydney there are often Open days for non muslims at Sydney largest mosque. my brother is personally involved in them. its more than just an information day and people get to ask some tough questions. but its what islam needs, and its what the non-muslims want to know. a win-win i think.

Here in the UAE there are open days every week at the grand mosque in dubai, and there are initiatives and programs organised to increase awareness of the islamic faith. i know that at the Blue mosque in istanbul, there is a horde of tourists that flock there daily to check it out. moreso for its historical significance than to understand a message, but nonetheless its a start.

while i cant say its the same in every country, theres been a massive push since 911 to reach out the non muslims and show a face that many are yet to see, or dont see often enough.

so the question im posing is, how many of you have been inside a mosque? were you invited? or did you attend out of your own curiosity?was it what you expected? and how can it be made better?

if you were invited would you attend? if yes, then why? if no, then why not? what would make you change your mind?



im trying to use TFP as a testing ground and use information gleaned from this thread ( if i can get anything) and use it to help this cause of opening up the mosques to non muslims. all answers are appreciated, not just folks that have been in them


Quote:
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/23/ny...er=rss&emc=rss

At Mosques, Inviting Non-Muslims Inside to Ease Hostility Toward Islam

Brother Abdullah was working the sidewalk outside the Omar Ben Abdel-Aziz Mosque in Jamaica, Queens, on Friday, looking for the curious, fearful, idle and confused.

It was an hour into a two-hour open house intended to dispel ignorance and promote neighborliness and interfaith harmony. But only four guests, all Muslim, had showed up at the mosque, and all the passers-by he had stopped had said they had somewhere else to go.

“I want you to write that we tried,” said Brother Abdullah, a member of the mosque’s congregation who declined to give his last name, as he watched another pedestrian hurry away down the block. “Efforts were made to the public, and there’s nothing for them to avoid or shun. Islam is a good way of life.”

This week, hundreds of mosques and Islamic organizations across the country have been encouraging their members to invite non-Muslims to attend prayers, discussions and tours of Islamic centers as a way to defuse hostility toward the Muslim population.

In New York, about 20 mosques are participating in the event, which began last weekend and ends on Sunday. And organizers said that it had been a success — the experience of the Omar Ben Abdel-Aziz Mosque notwithstanding — with hundreds of visitors attending lectures, tours and question-and-answer sessions at Islamic centers in all five boroughs of New York City and on Long Island.

The idea for the program, “A Week of Dialogue,” emerged from a summit of Islamic leaders last month in New York and was, in part, a response to the furor surrounding a plan to open a Muslim community center and mosque near ground zero.

“In terms of rectifying this Islamophobia and bigotry, we should focus on our relationship with our neighbors,” said Zaheer Uddin, executive director of the Islamic Leadership Council of Metropolitan New York, an umbrella group of mosques and Islamic groups in the city. “If our neighbors are happy, they can’t make some propaganda stuff.”

A New York Times poll in August found that 75 percent of New Yorkers had never visited a mosque, and that those who had, or who had a close Muslim friend, were more likely to support the Muslim center planned in Lower Manhattan.

That same poll also found widespread anxiety among New Yorkers about Muslims. One-fifth of New Yorkers acknowledged animosity toward Muslims, and nearly 60 percent said people they knew had negative feelings toward Muslims because of 9/11.

Juan Williams gave voice to such concerns this week when he said on the Fox News Channel, where he is a political analyst, that he got “nervous” when he saw people in “Muslim garb” on an airplane. National Public Radio, where Mr. Williams had also worked, terminated his contract on Wednesday; Fox gave him a new contract on Thursday.

While some Islamic leaders publicly supported the decision to fire Mr. Williams, the organizers of the weeklong dialogue said the open houses were intended to help dispel just the sort of concerns that Mr. Williams expressed.

Though mosques are always open to the public, the organizers said they felt that a special open-house program was necessary to bring non-Muslims through the door.

On most days this week, at least two mosques somewhere in the city have held programs to accommodate visitors. Before Friday, attendance at the programs ranged from about a dozen visitors — at the Islamic Cultural Center of New York in Manhattan — to more than 100 at the Muslim Center of Long Island, or Masjid Darul Quran, in Bay Shore, according to organizers.

Organizers said the interactions had been peaceful and engaging, for the congregations and the visitors alike.

“So far so good,” Mr. Uddin said. “Very friendly, very pleasant, very educational.”

For many visitors, it is the first time they have been to a mosque, organizers said. They brought questions about prayer rituals, Muslim holidays and the similarities and differences between Islam and other religions.

In recent months, Islamic leaders in the United States have been wrestling with the question of how to improve their faith’s image in the public eye.

In Jamaica on Friday, Aiyub Abdul Baqi, an imam who was visiting from another mosque, addressed the small gathering, which also included about a 10 members of the Omar Ben Abdel-Aziz congregation. He spoke about the main tenets of Islam and talked about the early history of Islam in the United States.

“This is not a gathering to convert anyone,” he said. “This is an attempt to clear up some of the lies and misconceptions that some people have tried to perpetuate.”

His audience, already converted, nodded in assent.
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Old 10-23-2010, 12:34 PM   #2 (permalink)
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The question(s) you're posing seem exclusive, including the title of this thread. I don't see how this can have a positive impact on any of us.

My objections to the question aren't related to your reasons for asking it, in some of the same ways I'm unrelated to you. Humanity's oneness seems to me to require that such questions be regarded as silly. IJUHP!
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Old 10-23-2010, 12:58 PM   #3 (permalink)
 
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My first impressions might be helpful to Dlish...or not.

Open day can only happen if something was closed first.
It reminds me of scheduled Open meetings at Alcoholics Anonymous.
Opening up communications betwixt differing anything is a good thing, correct?

It also reminds me of how somber my Catholic baby-sitter looked as she prepared
her trio of young Methodist charglings for Mass.

I dunno. Religion in general I sigh at.

Back in the day: I spent time eating & conversing with Hare Krishna folk. I was introduced to curry! Yay!
The peeps who identified with more exclusive ideas of piety,
beit seventh day adventists...tongue speaking baptists ..etc..

Big sigh.

To answer your question Dlish: Yes I would attend.
Why?: Because I would like to ask more questions & I love everybody!
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Old 10-23-2010, 12:59 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I'm not quite sure where ourcrazymodern? is coming from, I think it's a fine question and a good discussion topic.

Some years ago when I was traveling in Zanzibar, I was eating my lunch in the park, and a young Muslim man of around my age sat near me and struck up a conversation. We chatted for 30 minutes, mainly about where I was from and what I was doing in Zanzibar, then he excused himself and said he had to go to the mosque. I'm still kicking myself for not asking if I could come along.
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Old 10-23-2010, 01:16 PM   #5 (permalink)
 
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His Broodiness is perhaps full moon affected, him being a Cancer & all that.

I hope more people respond to this thread. 'twould be good.
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Old 10-23-2010, 01:52 PM   #6 (permalink)
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As odd as it would be (I'm simply not religious in any sense) to visit a mosque, I believe I would, simply to learn more about the people who follow the faith, rather than learning about the faith itself. I have no troubles with people and their beliefs, only when they use those beliefs to justify certain actions.

If it promotes further tolerance toward different peoples and the way they live their lives, I'm all for it.
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Old 10-23-2010, 04:10 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I think its a wonderful idea. I've never been in one, can't say that I even know where the closest one is, maybe in a Chicago suburb Would I go if asked? Probably not as it would most likely be an hour's drive or longer. Would I go if there was one in my town? Maybe.
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Old 10-23-2010, 04:22 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I totally respect your right to believe what you want and worship as you see fit, but you wouldn't want someone like me in a mosque. I'd be glad to observe your sacred rituals and recite your sacred verses, but the very second I'm engaged in conversation after the service, my inner Dawkins will kick in and it's very hard to get that genie back in the bottle. Like most Internet Atheists™, I've spend more time learning how to debate religion than I have getting my degree in college.

This is an idea with very good intentions, and for that I really do appreciate it, but I think your best bet would be interfaith barbecues (no pork!) or something like that, where people of different faiths come together to have a good time and learn people with other beliefs aren't monsters or terrorists. There's an Assyrian church around the corner that regularly has huge parties and folks of many different faiths show up and they all have a great time.
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Old 10-23-2010, 06:37 PM   #9 (permalink)
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So non-Muslims weren't allowed to visit mosques before?

I'm not sure if I would go. I'm interested for sure, but my brain-to-mouth filter doesn't work very well so I'm very afraid of saying something wrong and offend someone at said mosque.
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Old 10-24-2010, 01:45 AM   #10 (permalink)
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its not that mosques were closed, but people in the general public weren't curious enough to want to go in and have a look... until 911.

the last decade has seen an 'open doors, open minds' policy by many mosques, especially in the west on the back of a lot of discrimination and speculation in the general community about the intentions of muslims. whilst islam has taken a battering since then, its trying to show that they are still patriotic as any other americans/australians/canadians etc and not different to anyone else.

ive been curious enough to want to go to churches, baha'i, buddhist and hindu temples, and synogogues when i had the chance, and ive taken that opportunity when it came.

im just wondering what hinders people from taking that step, and what influences them to make those decisions.

Will, the intention isnt to open up a debate, but rather to open up a dialogue and understanding and welcome people to understand who, what, why about islam and its people in [insert city here].

my brother has welcomed many people like yourself at the local mosque in sydney. he has some colourful stories. Banter debates are welcomed. Its part and parcel of it all. And like yourself my brother is well versed in all the 'for and against aguments'. but again, debates are something else. if you wanted a debate, there are many islamic organisations that organise debates with other christian/jewish/atheists et al. that said, you'd be welcome to pay me a visit in my local mosque. barbeques are a great idea, and i know its been done at many universities in sydney back when i was still studying. Ill have to ask my brother if they have bbqs at the open day these days.

my intention here is to understand why people choose to or choose not to take an invite, and if i could use and decifer this information to invite more people for enhance that culture of understanding.


OCM - what would make you go or not go? how can i 'open up' the questions for you? if Ring went, would you go with her? sometimes people feel unsure of going unless someone comes along too.

Furious - yes, you're right. these things are not organised to convert or teach people about islam or get into theological discussions, but rather to introduce people to a mosque and its people.

ive always wondered what sort of marketing would be needed to attract people to attend these open days. flyers? newspaper? or word of mouth? anyone?
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Old 10-24-2010, 09:40 AM   #11 (permalink)
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The intention isn't to set up debates? Because a duologue between two or more folks that have deeply-held, differing opinions on something might head in that direction. Often.

How would you reach out to someone like me, a former Christian turned atheist who is just as concerned about Wahhabism as he is about Western (American and European) intolerance of Muslims? Doesn't that seem like about 12 debates waiting to happen?
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Old 10-24-2010, 10:04 AM   #12 (permalink)
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probably more than 12.

no seriously, open days are intended to open the doors of communication. debates are more along the lines of 'im right , you're wrong'. its confrontational, and its not what open days are intended for. sure you could ask hard hitting questions, and you may have someone willing to debate you there. but most often than not people that attend these days will be people celebrating diversity and you may not get the answers you want. if you appraoch them at other times, you may get a debate organised.

im not sure how to reach out to you Will. TFP has a bunch of pretty smart folks around. Id rather smart people like yourself and others attend things like this and give islam a run for its money. the only way islam will change with the times is if you push its boundaries.
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Old 10-24-2010, 10:35 AM   #13 (permalink)
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dlish, I apologize for my surly & uncommunicative response.

I would definitely go for the learning experience. & as you know, I would follow ring anywhere! Peace & Joy, man.
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Old 10-24-2010, 10:48 AM   #14 (permalink)
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I would probably go if my local mosque was holding a community event that was obviously open to outsiders. I know where it is; I drive by it most every day. I know from friends that I'm free to drop in at the mosque any time; since we're in a university town, they are very interested in talking to students and others about Islam. However, the reasons why I don't are the same as why I don't drop in at any other church: I'm just not that interested enough to go out of my way, and the unknown social situation it presents to me makes me uncomfortable (this is not something related to faith, but rather my own social anxiety). However, a community event with other seekers would probably grab my interest sufficiently, and ease my anxieties a bit.
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Old 10-24-2010, 10:50 AM   #15 (permalink)
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I think it's a wonderful idea to bridge divides especially in the religious world. I'm just trying to imagine how this would actually play out. I show up, I engage in small talk and polite conversation about shallow subjects and then, as I get to know the folks I'm talking to a bit better, the conversation deepens and suddenly I find myself asking deep questions which may require controversial answers or answers I have serious disagreements with. The same thing happens when I talk to my dad (Lutheran pastor) about religion and, after about 15 minutes of meandering conversation, I find that we're having a serious debate about Proposition 8 and homosexuality as a sin. I'm honestly not trying to be an asshole, and I'm not trying to say, "What you believe is wrong", but in trying to understand his position I have to bring my own.
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Old 10-24-2010, 03:57 PM   #16 (permalink)
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I don't think I would go, unless I knew someone who specifically invited me. I'm also an atheist and am not particularly hostile towards any religious group.

I'm fairly apathetic about this kind of thing too - the 'local' mosque for me is 30 odd kilometres away (Auburn I think would be the closest one to my house).

Don't think I'm being discriminatory - I don't as a rule spend much time in religious buildings.

I think if I was travelling I'd be more likely to visit old churches/mosques - but this is more an interests in architecture than religion.
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Old 10-24-2010, 05:15 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Quote:
if you were invited would you attend? if yes, then why? if no, then why not? what would make you change your mind?


I'm pretty apathetic about religion in general. I'd decline an invite from any faith equally.

Free food wouldn't do it. I suppose free beer is out of the question?
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Old 10-24-2010, 07:57 PM   #18 (permalink)
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no offence taken from any members.

stanT, that gave me a hearty laugh for the morning. Thanks!

So if it moved out of a religious building and into a park say, would that take the feeling of exclusiveness out of it and entice people to attend? the reason why i say this is that if many members are athiest or agnostic and dont care to be in a religious building, would organising something outside away me more inviting?
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