Thursday, June 12, 2008

Virginia Mosque Reaches Out to Immigrant Community

Today's Washington Post reports on an amazing transformation taking place in Falls Church, VA.  According to the Post article,

[F]or years the Dar al Hijrah mosque was an isolated, slightly mysterious presence in Falls Church -- a stark stone building hidden behind a row of trees, rarely visited by non-Muslims in the multi-ethnic Culmore neighborhood, and known mostly for traffic jams on Leesburg Pike as worshipers arrived for Friday prayers.

In fact, in 2001 the mosque came under official suspicion amid reports that a man linked to the terror attacks of September 11 had visited there. 

Today, things are different:

[T]he mosque bustles with visitors chattering in Spanish and Vietnamese as well as Persian and Urdu. Immigrants from a dozen countries gather there each Thursday, many with toddlers and baby strollers, to pick up donated chicken, bread, fruit and vegetables.

On weekends, the doors are thrown open for community blood drives or mental health fairs. At night, mosque officials often attend meetings at nearby churches, synagogues or social agencies, including a monthly brainstorming session called Culmore Partners.

Abdulkareem Jama, a network engineer from Somalia who serves as president of the mosque's board, is pleased with the transformation.  "The average person here has had no interaction with Islam. They may even think we are the enemy, especially after September 11th," he says.  "The more we open up and interact, the more we demystify things and seem normal to each other."

The Washington Post article sees an even deeper demystifying of the mosque -- and Islam in general -- and an acceptance of Muslims as part of the Falls Church community:

The mosque's coming out also reflects the growing cooperation between area Muslim institutions and the largely non-Muslim immigrant communities that surround them. In Culmore, the trend has brought many groups together to help immigrants who struggle with poverty, discrimination and legal problems.

Something good is happening in Falls Church, VA!

To read the entire article, see "Va. Mosque Reaches Out, Joining Immigrant Fabric" in the June 13, 2008, Washington Post.


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