The Islamic Center of Naperville (ICN) organized an “Open Mosque Day” on March 13th, 2016 at their center on Ogden Avenue where they opened their doors to people of different faiths to visit and build friendships in an effort to promote harmony and better understanding. The event attracted a staggering 1,000 people representing various segments of the local community.
Steve Chirico, Mayor of Naperville, who delivered a heartwarming speech on the occasion, said that the Open Mosque Day is an important step in the direction of strengthening bonds among different communities. He stated that the event was a rich tribute to the diversity of Naperville. “The event, which involved my debut visit to a mosque, was a first-of-its-kind experience of my life”, he added.
Krishna Bansal, Chairman, Indian Community Outreach, the Office of the Naperville Mayor, said that an event like the Open Mosque Day should not be a one-shot affair. He called for a large number of similar events, on a regular basis, by people belonging to different religions.
Shoaib Khadri, President, ICN said that the event was greatly instrumental in fostering direct and open communication between individuals, opening opportunities for dialogue between faith leaders and their communities, and dispelling misinformation on Islam by explaining the true teachings of the faith.
Aadil Farid, Former President of the ICN said that the core values of the ICN are: Tolerance, Justice, Peace, and Progress for all. “The event was aimed at putting into practice these noble values”, he added.
“The Open Mosque Day went a long way in strengthening unity among different communities living in the Naperville area. It was truly a celebration of unity among neighbors”, said Yousuf Siddiqui, Chair of ICN’s Outreach Committee.
The Religious Director, referred to as the Imam of ICN, Shaykh Rizwan Ali had a continuous flow of visitors at his “Meet the Imam” booth asking him questions on Islam’s position on terrorism, female oppression, Sharia law, interfaith marriage, dress code, halal practices and much more. The interesting deliberations on these issues helped convey an evidence-based and authentic message about Islam and its followers. “The conversation really made every one mighty enlightened”, he added. He was joined by Shaykh Omar Hedroug, the young and enthusiastic Youth Director of ICN who is also a trained religious scholar.
The female guests enjoyed getting beautiful designs of henna on their hands (a natural plant-based temporary tattoo) – very popular feature of the event. They had an opportunity to try on the hijab (the Islamic head covering scarf) and see how they looked in a mirror that was provided and took pictures. Everybody who tried the hijab got to take it home as a souvenir.
A feature that the guests found really interesting was watching the call for the afternoon congregational prayer. The guests observed the subsequent prayer in pin drop silence. Beautiful Qu’ran recitation and informative video clips added to the spiritual quotient of the event.
Various members of the ICN community welcomed the guests with the Registration booth managed by the young Girl Scouts of the Islamic Center. There were regular batches of tours of the facility where the guests were shown the prayer halls with the beautiful Turkish carpets and classrooms.
The booth for “Islam, Quran, and Science” was an amazing experience for the visitors as they learned about the cohesion and consistency in scientific knowledge and Islamic teachings. Some of the scientific facts which have been discovered recently, but were mentioned in the Qur’an 1400+ years ago, captured their imagination.
The booth for “Women’s Rights” was very popular with people asking many questions on the status and rights of women. The volunteers who managed the booth articulately explained that some of the rights accorded to women 1400 years ago, according to the teachings of Islam, were not established in various other civilizations until much later.
There was a booth dedicated to the Qur’an that explained the history and content of the book that Muslims believe was the divine revelation from God. There were many questions about the life of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) which were addressed in a separate booth dedicated to the last and final messenger of the Islamic faith.
The visitors found the booth on Islamic art and artifacts very interesting. It was a huge attraction as various cultural items were on display. Many guests were walking around with their names written in Arabic on tent cards which they got at “Islamic Calligraphy” booth. Mayor Chirico was truly amazed at the beauty of Arabic calligraphy and took home a name card with his name beautifully inscribed in Arabic as well.
The booth for “Islamophobia and Extremism” expectedly attracted a lot of visitors with a lot of recent media coverage on the topic. The volunteers explained the concepts of peace, justice and tolerance that are an integral part of the teachings of Islam and that any act of aggression against innocent people was clearly forbidden in Islam showing evidence from the Qur’an and the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH). They went on to explain that an overwhelming majority of the 1.6 billion Muslims across the world, including the top Islamic scholars around the world, have strongly condemned all forms of terrorism and extremism.
The greatest attraction was the food – with a wide range of delicious items of ethnic cuisine from Mediterranean to South Asian. The guests enjoyed the hospitality of the Islamic Center where the food trays were always kept filled for multiple helpings.
Although the event was scheduled from 11 AM to 3 PM, the visitors lingered on enjoying the ambience of companionship, friendship and friendly conversations where they made a number of new friends. There were people who came in large batches from the local churches and other faith organizations, students from schools and colleges, educators, elected representatives, colleagues, friends and neighbors of the ICN community members – they all shared the opinion that the Open Mosque Day was a wonderful event which opened up their hearts and minds and they all wanted to know when the next one was planned so they could invite their friends to share this amazing experience.