Islamic Center open house brings in diverse crowd

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Members of the Muslim community gather for prayer at the Islamic Center in Manhattan on July 1, 2015 during Fast a Day. The Islamic Center held its Open House Saturday. (File Photo by George Walker | The Collegian)

The Islamic Center of Manhattan hosted an open house where its members presented different aspects of Islam on Saturday.

Volunteers put together presentations that covered gender equality, Ramadan, prayer, Hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, diversity and more. Visitors could also get henna tattoos while several members of the mosque answered questions visitors had about the religion.

“(The open house) is really interesting,” Mary Conner, freshman in horticulture and visitor to the Islamic Center, said. “I feel like I’m learning a lot.”

To Conner, the open house informed the Manhattan community of Islam outside of how the media portrays it.

“Our community has a lot to offer,” said Sabri Ciftci, volunteer for the open house, associate professor of political science and former board member of the Islamic Center. “… (The Islamic Center) is trying to change some misperceptions.”

Dursitu Hassen, freshman in biochemistry and volunteer from Ethiopia, discussed diversity with the visitors. According to Hassen, Islam is one of the fastest growing religions in the world, with followers in almost every country.

“(The visitors) are starting to feel Islam is part of our community,” Hassen said.

Ciftci said the diverse crowd was exactly what he and the center were hoping to bring in. According to Ciftci, this diversity is also present in the Islamic Center community, where its members come from Africa, the Middle East, Asia and other regions.

“(Visitors) are not coming and going,” Ciftci said. “They’re curious.”

According to Hassen and Ciftci, the Manhattan community is engaged and wanting to learn about their culture and religion. An open house is a way of bringing the center and the outside community together.

According to Soundos Alkhiary, sophomore at Manhattan High School and volunteer, members of the mosque had to get more chairs and another table for visitors to keep up with the foot traffic.

“We’re doing good when you’re talking to someone, and you can barely hear them (over everyone talking),” Alkhiary said.

According to Ciftci, the food table was the most popular. He said the food offered was a good representation of the diversity in the mosque. Arabic and Asian cuisine, as well as a variety of desserts and refreshments, were prepared and served.

Ciftci said months of planning went into this annual open house. Volunteers received training on how to interact and engage with the visitors and several people helped make the food.

Ciftci said he only wishes the open house could run longer to allow even more people from the community to come visit and learn.

“If you’re wanting to learn about a religion, culture or country, who better to ask than someone in that religion, culture or country?” Alkhiary said.

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Kelsey Kendall
Hi everyone! I'm a senior in journalism and cultural anthropology. My favorite things are storytelling, coffee and meeting new people. In that order.