While best friends Henna Eassa and Melanie Fernando share almost everything, there is one distinct aspect of their lives that they don’t have in common: their faith.

But on Sunday, Henna, a 16-year-old Muslim, and Melanie, a 17-year-old Christian, spent the day together, munching on Indian and Pakistani cuisine, admiring their matching henna bracelets and taking a tour of the American Islamic Association at 8860 W. St. Francis Road in Frankfort.

“I think it’s cool to know about different religions because then you can respect them,” Fernando said. “I got to see the inside of a mosque, and I’ve never been inside a mosque before.”

The second annual community fair drew a crowd of more than 200 people, with attractions ranging from free blood pressure screenings by staff members from Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey to an inflatable jumping house for kids.

A tour of the mosque piqued the interest of a number of curious couples, including Tom and Maggie Kenny, who live two blocks down from the mosque in Tinley Park.

“Living in the neighborhood, we’ve driven by it and never knew how it looked on the inside,” Maggie Kenny said.

With no furniture in the prayer hall and a brilliant chandelier hanging from a background of painted clouds, the mosque is a delicate balance between the simple and the extravagant.

For Tom Kenny, the Islamic house of worship was much like church, and the people inside were his neighbors.

“They’re just like you and I,” he said.


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