Muslims Hope Mosque ‘Sheds Light On Islam’

May 23, 2009

Author: Erin Wisdom

Source: St. Joseph News-Press

Shamsuddin Rager had never been a Muslim in a city without a mosque until he moved to St. Joseph two years ago.

Mr. Rager, who is originally from Boston, came here from Florida and before that lived in a city in Germany not much larger than St. Joseph — one with five mosques. It was there, almost five years ago, that he converted to Islam.

Of the places he’s lived since, St. Joseph seems to be where Islam and its followers are least understood, he said. But he hopes that will change when the Islamic Center of Greater St. Joseph opens its first mosque later this year and St. Joseph’s Muslim community becomes more visible.

“I hope it sheds light on Islam so people will learn they don’t have to live in fear,” he said. “They don’t have to fear Islam; they don’t have to worry we’re going to blow something up.”

Until recently, he added, there wasn’t much of a Muslim community in St. Joseph, which he thinks may be why many people here seem not to have much of an understanding of Islam. A majority of his encounters with this misunderstanding come at Christmas time, when he tells people who wish him a merry Christmas that as a Muslim, he doesn’t celebrate Christmas.

“There are mixed reactions,” Mr. Rager said. “Quite a few negative, some surprised. The door kind of swings both ways.”

And then there are the people who are curious about Islam. At the Islamic Center’s open house May 16, only one or two of the 35 to 40 in attendance were Muslim, said Amro Nabil Masjid, the center’s imam, or priest.