In late July, carloads of curious Catholics caravanned north from their church to a mosque in the next county.
Three dozen Catholics who regularly attend Mass at the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement’s Graymoor Spiritual Life Center in Garrison accepted a Muslim visitor’s invitation to attend services at Masjid Al-Noor, his mosque in Wappingers Falls.
Entering the two-story white frame building, the visitors placed their shoes alongside their host’s on wire racks lining one wall of the foyer.
The women, already modestly covered from chin to ankle, pulled on scarves to cover their hair. The men were directed through double doors to a large simple, rug-covered room on the first floor and the women were invited upstairs to a balcony overlooking the same prayer room.
The walls of the prayer room were sparsely decorated with metal plaques proclaiming God’s greatness in Arabic, a large clock and several bookshelves with various editions of the Quran and devotional books. The front of the room had a small, raised carpeted platform for the imam, the religious scholar who led the service.
People greeted one another quietly and lined up, shoulder to shoulder, in rows that stretched across the room. Everyone faced east, the direction of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Islam’s holy city. Folding chairs in the back of the two prayer areas were used by people who had difficulty sitting and kneeling on the floor, or accomplishing the deep bows that punctuated the prayers.