More than 600 people attended an open house Saturday at the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati to learn more about that faith and their neighbors as well as seeing the mosque and the rest of the campus.
After afternoon prayers, Imam Hossam Musa and Dr. Ashraf Traboulsi talked about the Islamic faith as well as the many misconceptions fueled by the political rhetoric of the day.
Musa told attendees that as neighbors, everyone should come together and to be kind and respectful to one another whether or not they are Muslim.
Traboulsi said that the word Islam means to submit to the will of God.
“Islam is not a foreign word to other religions,” he said.
Traboulsi also spoke about the Five Pillars of Faith, which include a belief in one God and his last messenger, Prophet Muhammad, prayer, fasting, charity/alms, and making a pilgrimage to Mecca during their lifetime if they have the means.
He also spoke of many misunderstandings that the public has about Muslims and Islam. Traboulsi also said Islam is not new to the U.S. as Muslims have been in America since the beginning, noting that 30 percent of slaves who were brought to America were Muslims.
“The majority of Muslims are non-Arab and not all Arabs are Muslims,” Traboulsi said.
Shakila Ahmad, president of the board of the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati, said she was “surprised, but not surprised” about Saturday’s turnout. As of Friday afternoon, she said the center received 550 RSVPs to attend, but said there were more than 600 there Saturday.
Ahmad believes the heated political rhetoric in recent times and the recent travel ban ordered by President Trump have helped create many misconceptions about Islam. That ban was stopped by a federal court order Friday night.
“I think people are very disturbed by the message that is sent by the ban, the implications that it has for all Americans, not just those people who are coming from those seven countries,” Ahmad said. “I think there was a lot of concern and empathy realizing that stereotypes and false information about Muslims has quite often has been determining mass public opinion.”
She said it’s important to realize Muslims want America to be more safe than the average American does.
Ahmad said she always has to remember to speak for herself, and if she does not make the effort, then others will become her voice.
“That’s where we continue to perpetuate the false information — we have to speak for ourselves,” she said. “We have to be open and transparent and allow people to come in and get to know us and I would recommend that to anyone else.”
Ahmad said more than 75,000 people have attended open houses at the center since it opened in 1995.
The open house created an opportunity for others to gain a better understanding of Islam.
Miranda Hicks of Fairfield Twp. said she and her husband brought their daughter to the open house and said it was a way to demonstrate being tolerant, kind and open-minded.
“Ultimately we came because I’m a mother and religious diversity is important and teaching my daughter to think for herself,” she said. “I thought it was helpful to be more understanding and tolerant and educating ourselves about the community.”
Another couple, Luis and Karla Dorado, also brought their two children to the open house.
“We just came because we wanted to know about the Muslims, their culture and get a little more informed about this religion,” Karla Dorado said. “I wanted to bring my family because I think in these days it’s important.”
Joanne Wallisch of Hamilton said it was gracious how the center opened its mosque to the community.
“The explanation of their religious beliefs with the question and answer session was informative and a wonderful experience. Their hospitality with traditional foods was also so generous,” she said. “This congregation enriches our culture.”
At the end of the day, many of those at the event circled the mosque and held hands in a sign of support and solidarity.