CAIRO - Seeking a common ground with their neighbors, the Muslim community in the northeastern US state of Indiana has held an event to share basic teachings of Islam to encourage better understanding and more interaction between faith groups.
People need to have correct information and being a part of this community, Tariq Akbar, president of Universal Education Foundation in Fort Wayne (UEF) board, told the News-Sentinel on Monday, June 3.As good civic leaders, we need to tell people what Islam does and does not believe in.
Inviting their neighbors for a broad discussion about Islam, Muslims hanged colorful posters on the wall of UEF center bearing basic questions about Islam, such as Who is Allah? and Why is Islam often misunderstood?.
The posters were part of Islam 101: Get to Know Your Muslim Neighbor presentation, offered by the foundation to provide answers to common questions about the Islamic faith.
Operating since 2005, the event was the first for UEF foundation which draws about 200 Muslim worshipers each Friday for prayers.
Organizers hope that the event would lead to more interaction between followers of different faiths.
After an opening reading from the Qur'an, imam Nuhu Abdulai stood in front of the attendees to share the main aspects of Islam.
Switching fluidly between Arabic and English throughout his presentation, the imam translated for the audience as necessary.
He also stressed the importance of daily prayers, fasting during the holy month of Ramadan and adherence to the faith's teachings.
You have to judge the religion based off of what it teaches, not by what people who say they are followers choose to do, Abdulai said.
After the presentation, the audience question-and-answer period touched on a wide variety of topics, from abortion, to salvation to dietary restrictions, offering Abdulai a chance to elaborate on the Muslim teaching on different subjects.
Among attendees was Steven McPeek, pastor at Markle United Methodist Church, who was interested in finding similarities between Islam and Christianity.
We're connected in some way, so I'm trying to understand more about the faith so we can see each other as humans, so there's not that fear, that anxiety about the Muslim faith. McPeek said.
We're all created in God's image.
Other attendees praised the event for offering them a firsthand experience with Muslims, rather than getting their information from TV and news outlets.
I've lived in places where people assume they know everything about Islam from reading newspapers and watching TV, said Fort Wayne resident Heather Van Frankenhuyzen.
Living in Michigan, Washington and Maine, she said the Muslim community in Fort Wayne is the best she's ever lived in.
It's nice to know that someone is seeking to understand a group, she said.
The event also drew members of the community who were interested in knowing more about Islamic culture.
We have a lot of interest in other cultures, Susan Sirois, who favorites cultural dishes in Muslim countries, said.
If you just sit at home in your box, you're never going to learn about the world and experience it.
The United States is home to a Muslim minority of between six to eight million.
A survey by Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life last month found that American Muslims are the most moderate around the world.
It shows that US Muslims generally express strong commitment to their faith and tend not to see an inherent conflict between being devout and living in a modern society.An earlier Gallup poll found that the majority of Americans Muslims are loyal to their country and optimistic about their future in the United States.