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By Admir Rasic
How do Muslims feel about non- Muslims coming to the mosque to learn about their faith even though they will probably never convert to Islam?
Muslims build mosques for many reasons, chief among them are to offer a place for prayer and to serve the community needs. Part of Islamic theology is the idea that everyone is welcome to come to mosque.
During the Prophet Muhammad’s time, he welcomed a company of Christians from Najar. The Christian guests even prayed inside the mosque. Currently, in the United States, a big obstacle to understanding American Muslims is the lack of interaction between the Muslims community and the non-Muslim community. In other words, neighbors simply do not know each other, therefore shaping their views of their fellow Americans by what they see on television or read in the news. This phenomenon is not limited only to Muslims, but also many other minority groups that are misrepresented in the media, such as African Americans or Latino Americans. I would encourage anyone who is interested about learning about Muslims to visit their local mosque and meet the Muslims that congregate there, whether they have any intention of converting to Islam or not.
Mosques, like any other houses of worship include individuals from the full spectrum of political and theological beliefs. You may meet, for example, a religiously conservative, but politically liberal Muslim, or vice versa. Because of this diversity, as you are talking to your neighbor American Muslims, you may find that some have a passion to talk deeply about theology in hopes of encouraging you to accept Islam. The vast majority of American Muslims are simply interested in making a new friend when a guest arrives. Regardless, I’m confident that you will find a welcoming atmosphere where people will be more than happy to talk to you about themselves and their experiences, hopes, and dreams.
My dream is for my daughter to grow up in a place that will be welcoming of her religious identity and a place that can foster her confidence. Because of that, I take her to various churches and community events so that she can interact with her neighbors and build bridges of understanding, instead of living with damaging misconceptions.
Admir Rasic was born in Bosnia-Herzegovina a few years before the start of the Yugoslav wars. He and his family and lived in Germany as war refugees before moving to the United States in 2000, making Spokane their new home.
He is a proud dad of a 2-year-old daughter and the son of a concentration camp survivor. “I am grateful to God for all of the blessings in my life,” he said.
He received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington in English Literature and enjoys playing soccer, reading books and meeting new people. His goal is to make the world a better place for his daughter.
I would like to commend the man who took several guests (including myself) inside the men’s prayer room this October. One guest repeatedly asked him what spoken Arabic sounded like and just wouldn’t let it go. I don’t believe the man spoke Arabic and wasn’t sure how to answer the question, perhaps thinking there must be some depth to the question that he was missing. But no, I am pretty sure the question asker just didn’t have a grasp on anything beyond the scope of their limited English language and truly wondered what another language sounded like, as if it was something from another planet.
Now I really dig language as a whole – spoken, signed, written, whatever. I’m no expert but I like to listen to and dabble at learning different languages. I know everyone is not like me, but it completely baffled me that this adult had never heard any Arabic in their life, even in a movie or something.
I became frustrated and really wanted to yell at the asker to go Google it and watch a video or listen to a sound clip. I really don’t think the asker’s intent was malicious at all – just a lack of education I suppose – but I finally had to bite my tongue and leave. I am sure the man who had brought us inside maintained the patience I had already seen him exemplify during this questioning.
I want to thank the Spokane Islamic Center for opening their doors to the non-Muslim community and I apologize for the inane questions that I am sure are sometimes asked. To be welcoming and patient when there are so many misinformed Americans with disheartening attitudes is a testament to Muslim kindness. I hope the people at the churches and events that you attend with your daughter show you as much kindness.