Like many people in Rochester, Bill and Peggy Marshall have often wondered about the downtown Islamic Center, the people who worship there and what they believe.

On Saturday morning, at the first in a series of monthly open houses sponsored by the mosque, they got to find out.

“It seemed like a nice, friendly gesture, and we wanted to do what we could to reciprocate,” Bill Marshall said. “What a nice way to meet other members of our community.”

World events have made Islam the most talked-about religion on the globe, and perhaps the most misunderstood.

It’s an attempt to clear that up — to lift the veil of mystery, so to speak — that local Muslims decided to open their doors and beckon the community in.

About 20 people, including the Marshalls, accepted the invitation. Mosque members answered questions for more than an hour before inviting people to stay to watch the 12:20 p.m. prayer service. No question, no matter how sensitive or pointed, was discouraged.

“We have very thick skin,” member Rashed Ferdous said. “You can’t offend us.”

“My goal, when you leave this place today, you will at least be able to see, ‘This (terrorist) is a criminal, and he happens to be a Muslim,’ not, ‘He’s a Muslim and he’s (automatically) a criminal.'” Ferdous said. “That’s the biggest problem, the biggest challenge we’re facing today, distinguishing that fact.”

He explained why Islamic women pray separately from men (because worshippers’ bodies press close together during prayers; mixing sexes could affect concentration) and behind men (because prostration is an immodest posture, however religiously necessary it is).


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