Never been inside a mosque? Or talked frankly with Muslims about their beliefs or asked them why a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad could provoke an international firestorm?
You get that chance Friday night at the Islamic Community Center mosque in Tempe. The publication of offensive cartoons in Europe has prompted the mosque and the Arizona chapter of the Council of American Islamic Relations to hold the open house.
Islamic leaders say they are poised to answer questions about the life and legacy of the founder-prophet Muhammad and about freedom of religion and the press in the context of Islam. Visitors can take home DVDs and materials about the religion of 1.2 billion people.
While the Tempe mosque, a half-size replica of the Dome of the Rock mosque in Jerusalem, opened in 1984, it remains a place that too few non-Muslims have stepped into, they say. It was the first of what have become 15 mosques serving about 80,000 Valley Muslims.
=93By education, we hope to create a better understanding with the non-Muslim community so they will know us, said Nure Elatari, the councils Arizona program and media director. So when something happens, they are going to back us.
The more people know about Muslims, they will think positively about Muslims, said Mohamed El-Sharkawy, council chairman, noting that it is important for Muslims also to become better immersed in their communities, from voting, taking part in homeowners associations and
greeting new neighbors.