By: Sr. Nada Blassy
On Sunday, February 21, people of all faiths and walks of life were welcomed to ISONET’s 2nd Annual Open House. More than 400 guests visited the masjid on this bright and sunny day, where they took a tour inside the prayer hall, lined with rows of beautiful posters detailing the basics of Islam.
Many community members decided to pay our masjid a visit because they wanted to confirm their notion of Islam being a peaceful religion. Others were curious to experience something they had never been exposed to before. Regardless of their motivations for attending, many visitors expressed their comfort in learning that Islam as portrayed by the media is quite contrary to what Muslims actually believe and carry out.
Lisa, who came with her son Chris, said she was happy to have viewed such a peaceful place. “As Christians, we should try to reach out to everyone as well,” she added. In addition to the serene setting of our local masjid, Peter said he admired “the Muslims' discipline.” Peter and his wife already had a positive view of Islam, and the event proved reassuring. Like Peter, Liz Runnalls and her husband, Lee Runnalls, were very pleased with their time at the Open House. “We are glad we were able to see this,” Liz said. “We need to be informed of the people around us for our kids. For our grandkids. The best way to teach our grandchildren is by telling them about our day and to tell them to be open to people even if they may seem different.”
Other guests said the Open House changed their perspective on gender roles. Mr. and Mrs. Hooper said they were pleased to find out that there was no actual ban in Islam on women driving. They developed a better understanding of how important women are in Islam, and came to the conclusion that religion and the countries that show that they enforce it sometimes do not follow the proper Islamic rulings. “We’d look foreign if we entered a Middle Eastern country; it’s all about perspective,” said Regina Hooper.
The local community also overwhelmingly supported the masjid in preparing for the event. Volunteers from the Tampa Fire Department on Cross Creek Boulevard attended the Open House and brought with them two fire engines for children to see. Members of the Cypress Point Community Church, which is next door to the masjid, attended and expressed a genuine interest in building bridges with our community.
The tour of the masjid was concluded with a generous lunch, prepared and served by committed members of the community.
Most attendees said they learned about the Open House from advertisements in both the Wesley Chapel and New Tampa editions of the Neighborhood News Magazine. Some learned of it from the signs posted at the intersection of Cross Creek and Morris Bridge Road and in front of the masjid.
Overall, the visitors to the Open House enjoyed the event and felt comfortable enough to ask any questions they had. Alhamdulillah, they got answers that made them feel like Islam is a virtuous religion and that Muslims are truly courteous people. In addition, they were all visibly pleased with the inviting atmosphere and the helpful volunteers. Masha'Allah, the volunteers met multiple times during the weeks and days leading up to the Open House to coordinate the event; they wanted to ensure the most ideal setting for the visitors. Without their dedication, the event would not have been as pleasant and successful as it was.
We look forward to continued bridge-building in the community and to another great Open House next year.