NORTH FULTON – The Atlanta Muslim community organized an Atlanta area Visit a Mosque Day Saturday, March 11, and North Fulton mosques participated by opening their doors to the public.
With so many headlines these days harping on religious differences, Atlanta Muslims invited the public into their mosques – there are some 50 in the metro area – to dispel disinformation about Muslims living and working in the community.
Although most mosques are always open to the public, this was an opportunity for their neighbors to visit in a casual setting with Muslims and understand what they really believe.
“It is a chance to learn more about us as Muslims, and a chance to know us as neighbors,” said Roswell resident Ehab Jameel.
Jameel was born in Jordan, the son of a Jordanian Air Force pilot, but his family moved to America when he was 6 when an uncle convinced him of the opportunities to be had in the United States. He grew up in upstate New York.
Jameel, now a citizen, went on to earn a degree at Georgia Tech and find a career. He has made Georgia his home these last 20 years. He and his family live in Roswell.
His point was simply that the American dream reaches out and attracts people all over the world.
“I am an American. I speak like an American, I love American food, I laugh at American jokes. One of my daughters is an equestrian now. She is riding in a competition this week. And I am a Muslim.
“So it is unfortunate that that all people hear about in the news is ISIS and other extremists who distort our faith,” he said.
“But Muslims in America want the same things all other Americans want – to have a good job, a nice place to live and raise a family,” Jameel said. “We hope that this is one of many events that everyone will join in to help foster a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood among all religious communities. Together, we can encourage people of all faiths to learn more about each other and build relationships which will ultimately strengthen our communities.”.
What surprises many non-Muslims are the many connections Islam has to both Christianity and Judaism. Muslims venerate Jesus and Mary and they accept all the prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament).
They note the name of Jesus appears more times in the Quran than does that of Mohammed.
Asad Khan, the imam of the Islamic Center of North Fulton on Rucker Road, said the core belief of Islam is there is but one God, and in Arabic Allah is the word for God. Muslims say they don’t worship “another god,” but the one true God – as do Christians and Jews.
Muslims pray in the direction of Mecca because it is revered as the site where Abraham and Isaac built the first tabernacle to the one true God. Mohammed traced his lineage all the way to Abraham.
But over the centuries, the similarities have not brought the religions closer together. And often those differences have been used to justify persecution of other faiths.
Today there are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, yet the world’s attention is on a small faction that has murdered more Muslims in the Middle East than members of any other religion, said Jameel.
“They are a cult that is clearly outside of Islam. Many of the people who are attracted to this cult are already disturbed people,” he said. “The ones we see in this country are homegrown radicals – they didn’t come here from another country.”
They should no more be labeled “Muslim” than Timothy McVeigh who bombed Oklahoma City should be labeled a “Christian terrorist.”
“We abhor these extremist views and actions. But we are in this fight too. Most of those who have died in these wars are Muslims. Don’t let a small group of extremists define an entire religion,” Jameel said.