Never been inside a mosque? Or talked frankly with Muslims about their beliefs or asked them why a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad could provoke an international firestorm?
You get that chance Friday night at the Islamic Community Center mosque in Tempe. The publication of offensive cartoons in Europe has prompted the mosque and the Arizona chapter of the Council of American Islamic Relations to hold the open house.
Islamic leaders say they are poised to answer questions about the life and legacy of the founder-prophet Muhammad and about freedom of religion and the press in the context of Islam. Visitors can take home DVDs and materials about the religion of 1.2 billion people.
While the Tempe mosque, a half-size replica of the Dome of the Rock mosque in Jerusalem, opened in 1984, it remains a place that too few non-Muslims have stepped into, they say. It was the first of what have become 15 mosques serving about 80,000 Valley Muslims.
“By education, we hope to create a better understanding with the non-Muslim community so they will know us,” said Nure Elatari, the council’s Arizona program and media director. “So when something happens, they are going to back us.”
“The more people know about Muslims, they will think positively about
Muslims,” said Mohamed El-Sharkawy, council chairman, noting that it is important for Muslims also to become better immersed in their communities, from voting, taking part in homeowners associations and greeting new neighbors.
While Valley and American Muslims remained calm over the cartoon publishings in Europe, many were offended.
“They depicted Muhammad as a terrorist,” El-Sharkawy said. “Depicting the prophet in any form is unacceptable — not just our prophet, but any prophet, whether Jesus or Moses. Any of them in a picture format is prohibited.”
And though some art throughout history, including by Islamic artists, have had likenesses of the prophet, it at least has been tasteful, Elatari said. “We really want people to understand why he is so honored by us and really why
all the prophets must be respected,” she said.
If you go
Theme: The Life of Prophet Muhammad
What: Islamic Community Center open house When: 6 to 7 p.m. Friday Where: 131 E. Sixth St., Tempe
Cost: Free, refreshments/materials provided
Information: (602) 312-2223 OR