More than 800 people showed up on a rainy April 15, at the “Open Mosque Day held in the Islamic Center of Naperville, Illinois, to be greeted warmly by some 80 volunteers who had worked tirelessly over the past few weeks to make this a successful event.
“We really enjoy hosting our friends and neighbors from different faiths and we strive hard to make their visit to our mosque a memorable one” Shoaib Khadri, president of ICN is quoted saying in a press release. “This is our sixth Open Mosque Day and at every one of them, we see many familiar faces of interfaith partners, friends and people who have attended before, but this year, we saw a significant number of new people, which was very welcoming,” Khadri added.
The primary purpose of the event was to give people of different faiths an opportunity to visit a mosque, something they may have never had a chance to do, and learn more about their Muslim neighbors and the faith that they practice, organizers said.
There was a constant flow of visitors from the time the doors opened at 11 AM, including students, church groups, elected representatives, school board officials, law enforcement officers, local girl-scout troops, families with kids, and the elderly across various faith denominations, organizers said. Many students from local community colleges who are in Professor Dave Huber’s “World Religion” class also participated in the event to get some firsthand exposure to Islam.
There were main booths, and food in the gym, and prayers of the congregation in the prayer halls. Presentations were in different rooms. A new addition this year was a gallery showcasing exhibits with verses of the Quran as well as Hadith – the sayings of Prophet Mohammed.
Continuous videos featuring the activities of ICN were played on a stage, along with some snippets about Islam. The booth on Prophet Muhammad provided information about the life and the teachings of the last messenger of Islam where volunteers discussed various aspects of the prophet’s exemplary character and its impact on the Muslims. A second booth was dedicated to the Quran, the holy scripture of Islam that Muslims believe was the divine revelation from God.
A new feature called “The Feedback Wall” – a large paper mounted board to solicit feedback from the guests.
Mayor Steve Chirico of Naperville, who spent a fair amount of time interacting with the hosts as well as the guests, commented: “Thank you for being such wonderful community partners.” Another guest wrote: “It’s amazing how at home I feel when we talk about our similarities and not our differences, Thank you for sharing your beliefs.” Bishop Andrew Child of the Church of Latter Day Saints who brought a number of his congregants, said: “Thank You! Inspiring event. We can all learn from each other and strengthen one another in our faith.”
There was also a booth on “Islam and Extremism” where volunteers shared a lot of material that countered some perceptions in the American public about the faith.
People lined up to get their names written in Arabic Calligraphy by Mahfooz Khan, member of the ICN Interfaith Committee. An “Artifacts and Culture” booth highlighted different aspects of Islamic culture, architecture with displays of different artifacts.
An “Islam & Science” booth illustrated the harmony between Islam and science by highlighting various scientific facts with references to the Quran and the numerous contributions of Muslims to the field of Science.
The “Women in Islam” booth was buzzing with activities with people curious to learn about women’s rights in Islam and questions about why women cover their hair. Various women volunteers at the booth answered questions, and guests had the opportunity try on a hijab that they could take home. Volunteers also drew beautiful henna designs of guests’ hands.
Visitors got to enjoy cuisine ranging from Mediterranean to South Asian and including delicious desserts with tea and coffee. The food tables were well staffed with cheerful volunteers and continually replenished during the event.
There were booths with free literature on Islam and copies of the Quran for people to take home, including a separate booth with literature in Spanish.
A multimedia presentation titled “Journey through Time” which was produced by Yousuf Siddiqui, chairman of ICN’s Outreach Committee, attracted attention, as it articulated the message highlighting six of the greatest messengers of Islam – Adam, Noah, Moses, Abraham, Jesus and Muhammad with direct references in the Quran on each of them. “We wanted to show our guests that Islam believes in these prophets, and their common message of the worship of One God,” Siddiqui is quoted saying in the press release. “We had huge interest from the visitors and had excellent dialogue afterwards in the post question and answers sessions.”
A recent addition to the multimedia presentations was a video production called “The Great Women in Islam” that highlighted inspiring stories from women who are revered in Islamic history as well as great contributors to the faith over the years.
Other features at the Open Mosque Day included an Islam 101 presentation at the top of every hour.