Mosques urged to hold open houses
CAIR is calling on Mosques nationwide to hold open houses for people of other faiths in their local communities to help promote a better understanding of Islam and Muslims. A step-by-step guide to holding an open house is available on CAIR’s web site at: http://www.cair-net.org/downloads/aa311openhouse1.pdf
“Following the tragic events of September 11, and the anti-Muslim backlash that followed, it is clear that people of other faiths in this society are in need of accurate information about Islam, said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad. Awad asked imams and mosque leaders to schedule an open house as soon as possible. (NOTE: Because of recent events, make sure to request proper security for the event from local police.)
STEPS NECESSARY TO HOLD A MOSQUE OPEN HOUSE
1. PREPARE the members of your local community by explaining the necessity of building a positive image of the mosque in the surrounding area. Let them know that experience of other communities has shown that a positive neighborhood image offers many benefits. Ask for input concerning the details of when and at what time the open house should be held. There are no hard and fast rules for such things.
2. INVITE local community leaders, clergy, law enforcement officials, activists, and government officials. Remember to invite the mayor, congressional representatives, the chief of police and members of the city council. These people should all receive written invitations. Follow up with a personal phone call. Letters are not enough.
3. PUBLICIZE the event by sending a well-written news release (see sample in kit) to the local media. You may also place paid advertisements in the local newspaper (see sample). Send the news release to the religion calendar editor, the city editor, the feature editor at the newspaper, and the “daybook” editor at the nearest bureau of the Associated Press. Send a release to the assignment editor at the local television stations. Also send copies to news directors at the local radio stations. Send announcements to local houses of worship. (see “Media Event Check List” in kit)
4. INFORM your guests of mosque etiquette before they arrive (see “Welcome to Our Mosque” brochure). This will make them feel at ease and avoid embarrassment. Be ready to answer questions about prayer, separation of men and women and other common issues.
5. CLEAN the mosque. The first impression is one that will last. Make sure bathrooms are spotless. Have a mosque clean up day prior to the open house. Consider touching up areas that need painting.
6. SET UP a reception area where guests can be received, told about mosque etiquette and served refreshments. Have greeters at the door to direct arriving guests. Have knowledgeable people conduct tours of the facility. Do not leave guests alone to wander about the mosque. Give each guest a nametag. Make sure sisters are available to make female guests feel welcome.
7. PROVIDE snacks and drinks to make your guests feel welcome. Serving a variety of ethnic dishes is an excellent introduction to the diversity of our community.
8. SELECT literature to be given to the guests. Do not push materials on guests. Let them select what they wish to read. (see “Islam in America – The Facts,” and “Q&A About Islam and American Muslims”)
9. POST signs at appropriate locations in the facility to help guests find their way around. Many of them have never been to a mosque before.
10. PRAY that your efforts will open the hearts of your guests.