Today, I visit my first mosque. Initially, I dreaded going—not only was I taking time out of my spring break but I forced to go as a class assignment. I felt like I was an intruder. Barging in on someone else’s personal space. As if I was invited to a zoo to gawk at animals. I thought to myself—this assignment is disrespectful to those church members yet, I went anyways. In the end, my visit was nothing like I expected.
I arrived to a beautiful white building with gold accents. Upon arrival, men and women were separated for prayer. The separation made me confused and slightly upset, however, it was later explained that the separation is actually done to make women and their children feel more comfortable during prayer. Everyone in the Women’s section was extremely kind. They hugged me, kissed my cheeks like the French do, invited me to sit and encouraged me to ask all the questions my heart desired.
To be completely honest, it was extremely shocking to be so well received. Every question I asked was answered thoughtfully without a hint of anger or frustration. I thought to myself: they are probably asked these questions often yet, they still answer happily. Within my own religion, I have attended churches where they are rude and distant from “outsiders”. I expected the women in this church to do the same but they were extremely inviting. When the prayer started, I was reminded of the churches I went to as a child. There was a sermon that was preached in Arabic and English (it was really intriguing to hear the Arabic language). The sermon talked about the hate people held in their heart about Islam and how Muslims must challenge the hate with compassion and love. Once the sermon was over, I was greeted by the women again. They gave me many gifts—pamphlets, food, soda and my own Quran. During our debrief, I was able to get a better understanding of how prayer works. Praying five times a day seemed like a daunting task but when I asked a woman responded with a powerful statement: “Muslim isn’t just a religion. It’s a way of life—a practice.”
Overall, attending this church was very similar to my own childhood experiences at my families’ church. In a way, it made me miss my old church where people from all walks of life would commune and worship (I also miss the food). However, I feel a little bad for Muslims. They all know they are walking on eggshells because of the current political climate, however, they choose the higher road. They truly believe if more people become educated about Islam they will change their perspective and eventually their hearts. Looking back, I am glad I went. It was an amazing opportunity that challenged me to learn about the Islam religion.