CAIR-OH: Muslims Explain Faith to Others
Felix Hoover, COLUMBUS
Local Muslims and future leaders of Ohio's farm and food industries broke the ice at a Downtown mosque last week before breaking bread together at a restaurant in Clintonville.
Members of Ohio Leadership Education and Development, an 18-month program offered by the Ohio State University Extension, visited the Islamic Center on E. Broad Street as part of their introduction to different faiths.
"Our intent is to interact and to bring diversity to our leaders," said Alice Black, program director. "It's important that they're exposed to different cultures."
Whether initiated by Muslims or others, such interfaith discussions are on the rise, especially at Ramadan, the holiest month in Islam. Under the Islamic calendar, which operates on the lunar year, Ramadan falls about 11 days earlier each year in relation to the solar calendar.
This year, the holy month began at sundown on Tuesday, ushering in a period of abstinence from food, water and pleasures from dawn to sunset. In the evening, Muslims break the fast and engage in special prayers in addition to the normal ones.
When the leadership program's 29-person caravan arrived, worshippers at the mosques had just finished the Asr prayer, the third of five daily prayers that are mandatory for Muslims.
The visitors went to one of the classrooms for an overview of Islam by Abdonasser Abdouni, acting vice president of the Islamic Foundation of Central Ohio.
The leadership group, most of whose members are Christians, had visited Congregation Tifereth Israel, just a few buildings west of the Islamic Center, and had been briefed on Judaism before heading to the mosque.
"It was very interesting to discover there were more similarities to the three religions than I realized," said Carol Haramis, a member of the leadership group from Peninsula, about 130 miles northeast of Columbus in Summit County.
Jennifer Nimer, civil-rights director for the Ohio chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and Dalia Mohammad, office manager, helped Abdouni field questions, as did Amna El-Tayeb, a Muslim in the leadership program. . .
CAIR-Ohio's annual community iftar, which will be held at the Ohio Union on N. High Street, has experienced geometric growth in its six years.
"We started with 20; now we're expecting 500-600," said Ahmad Al-Akhras, president of the council.
The idea is to establish more intimate ties and to counter messages that stereotype Muslims as terrorists, he said.
"Our biggest enemy is ignorance," Al-Akhras said. "We need the larger community to feel they have Muslim brothers and sisters living among them."
Personal relationships enable intercultural education and help promote the notion that the face of America is not just Judeo-Christian, but Judeo-Christian-Islamic, he said. . .
Locally, CAIR is encouraging non-Muslims to take advantage of the Explore the Quran campaign, which permits those outside the faith to receive a free copy of Islam's holy text. Requests can be made via www.cair-net.org/explorethequran/.
"Learn for yourself; we are not pushing anything on you," Al-Akhras said.