Hundreds of men and women left their shoes at the door and bowed for the weekly Friday afternoon prayer at the Islamic Center of Hawthorne.

The service was a typical one – adults and children were consumed in prayer for about an hour. Some teens hung around outside the mosque, discussing basketball and the popular reality TV show, “American Idol.”

It could be the scene outside any American church or synagogue. And that’s a point local Muslim leaders want to make clear to non-Muslims.

On Sunday, the mosque is inviting people of all faiths to an open house at the Islamic center, which also operates an elementary and middle school.

The open house is an annual event that also takes place at 12 other Southern California mosques on Sunday. The need to invite non-Muslims is as important as ever, said Ammar Kahf, an administrator at the Hawthorne center.

“Our goal is to promote community awareness and education,” Kahf said. “Hate crimes against Muslims increased this year.”

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, local mosques have been “under siege” by prejudice and hate, said Affad Shaikh, a civil rights coordinator at the California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

“There is a feeling that Muslims are being racially profiled, or they’re being treated or discussed in a way that is different,” Shaikh said. “Their American-ness is being questioned.”


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