Islamic Center of Naperville welcomes all for ‘Open Mosque Day’

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The Islamic Center of Naperville was packed with people on Sunday afternoon, as hundreds came out to celebrate the annual Open Mosque Day.

“This is an event we always look forward to, because it gives us the opportunity to open our doors in a more full way to the community,” said Omar Hedroug, Education Director and Assistant Imam at the Islamic Center of Naperville. “Have people come and visit, see what we’re about, have some good food. Really learn what happens in a mosque on a day-to-day basis, what we do here, and experience it for themselves.”

 Opportunities to learn about Islamic culture

Visitors had the opportunity to learn about Islamic culture in a wide variety of ways. There were spots for people to receive a henna tattoo, try some authentic cuisine, and hear a Muslim call to prayer.

In addition to all the activities available to guests, organizers also encouraged open dialogue, in order to address any stereotypes that people may hold.

“If they have some real, more deeper sort of questions, they can meet with our Imams who are here today,” said Yousuf Siddiqui, Chair of the Outreach Committee at the Islamic Center of Naperville. “They can have a one-on-one with them, and ask them questions like ‘What is going on today? What is the role of women? What is the relationship between Muslims and Christians and athiests?’ I think that opens up the opportunity for closer interaction.”

Fostering friendship

 Building connections between the different diverse communities in Naperville is another desired outcome of Open Mosque Day.

“It’s a place that anyone and everyone can and should come to, to just find a community,” Hedroug said. “It can be very lonely a lot of times for people. Maybe if they’re new to the area, they don’t really have a lot of people around. This is a place where you can come and be a part of a family.”

One local faith leader, a longtime member of the Congregation Beth Shalom, was glad to step out of the synagogue for the afternoon in order to make some new friends.

“It’s always good to actually meet a person from a different faith and to talk to them,” said Bernie Newman, former president of Naperville’s Congregation Beth Shalom. “If you’re a friend with someone of a different faith, it’s hard to hate that faith. You need to kind of get past the initial layer and really have a conversation, develop that relationship.”

“We want to make it very clear that while this is an Open Mosque Day, every day for us is an open mosque day as well,” said Hedroug. “Meaning our doors are always open.”

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