Belleville mosque holds open house
Ten-year-old Danae Tyus, of O’Fallon, wanted to learn more about the religion of her best friend, Jumana Hamed.
So she went straight to the source. Danae attended the Belleville Mosque and Islamic Education Center’s open house Saturday afternoon with her mother, Desiree Tyus.
“I like to learn about other cultures, and I wanted to see what it was like to be a Muslim,” Danae said. Jumana, also 10, attends the mosque.
Danae had never been in a mosque before, just like many of the estimated 100 people who went to the open house.
I like to learn about other cultures, and I wanted to see what it was like to be a Muslim.
Danae Tyus, 10, of O’Fallon
Tyus, associate executive director of community development for the Gateway Region YMCA and founder of the Kid Friendly Network, said she and her children are Christian, but she believes it is important for her family to know about other religions and cultures.
Leaders of the Belleville Mosque decided to hold the open house “as a result of the positive support” the mosque received after President Donald Trump last month signed an executive order that restricted travel for 90 days between the United States and seven predominantly Muslim countries, said Amy Nabulsi, a spokeswoman for the mosque.
The order has since been put on hold after a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order on the travel ban.
Chris Caras, the outreach coordinator for the Missouri chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, spoke to the visitors after a worship service.
Caras, who converted to Islam when he was 17 and is now 36, said mosques across the country are holding open houses to be “more transparent.”
“Muslims are afraid and confused,” Caras said. He described Islamophobia as irrational and equated it with anti-Semitism.
Muslims are afraid and confused.
Chris Caras, outreach coordinator for the Missouri chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations
Caras said that if someone makes Islamophobic comments to you, he suggested you take the person to a mosque and tell them, “Let’s meet Muslims face to face.”
Caras said the followers of Islam he knows are “generous and tolerant.”
“That is the Islam that I know,” he said.
He said in all the years he has studied Islam and visited mosques, no one has ever solicited him to join any terrorist group. Your chances of someone being killed by a toddler with a gun is greater than by Muslim terrorist, he said. He also noted Islam has over 1.5 billion followers worldwide.
But Caras said statistics rarely will change people’s minds.
“But what changes people’s minds is this, not my words, but what we’re doing here today,” he said.
During a question-and-answer session, Caras and members of the mosque answered several questions, including one from Danae about the differences between the Bible and the Quran. Other questions centered on Muslim women, businesses owned by Muslims and Shariah law.
I thought it was an excellent forum for Muslims and non-Muslims to talk, to discuss issues of interfaith dialogue and misconceptions of Islam.
Michael Pilato, the adult education director at Trinity Episcopal Church in St. Louis
Michael Pilato, the adult education director at Trinity Episcopal Church in St. Louis and adjunct instructor in religious studies at McKendree University, said Saturday was the first time he had gone to a mosque.
“I thought it was an excellent forum for Muslims and non-Muslims to talk, to discuss issues of interfaith dialogue and misconceptions of Islam,” he said.
He said Christians need to honor the shared spiritual heritage of the two religions.
Pilato said one of the reasons he attended the open house was “to show solidarity with Muslims who feel threatened right now in light of Trump’s ban and Trump’s xenophobic comments toward Muslims in general. As a Christian, I feel that is my duty as well.”
Belleville Mosque and Islamic Education Center
- What: The Belleville Mosque, which is 20 years old and just underwent an expansion, has about 50 families as members.
- Where: It is located at 4525 Old Collinsville Road.
- Contact: For more information, go to the mosque’s Facebook page.