By Victor Ochieng
For those who come to Masjid An-Noor mosque to partake in daily prayer, they see first hand how open the mosque is to people from different backgrounds. Just from the look of this Des Moines mosque, it’s quite different; it isn’t like other mosques. It’s mainly undecorated, and it boasts of a men’s salon and a yoga studio within.
While someone may think that the mosque is unadorned due to the growing levels of “Islamophobia,” following attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, the attacks of which perpetrators claimed allegiance to the ISIS terror group, that isn’t the case.
The truth of the matter is that they aren’t doing so in shame or because they are running away from possible scrutiny by security officers ahead of the February 1 Iowa caucuses.
As adherents say, the simplicity is by choice, asserting that they don’t need signs or images to pray.
Today, more Muslims in Iowa are seeking to be heard and seen, which is why they’re welcoming people from diverse backgrounds to visit mosques. Even Donald Trump, who’s known to be hitting hard against Muslims in his rallies, has graced one of the mosques.
“We are part of this society,” said Almardi Abdalla of Des Moines. “Muslims need to step up more and engage in the political process.”
He goes on to say, “We are open to anyone who wants to come here. We have nothing to hide. Donald Trump can come here anytime.”
Days later, Imam Taha Tawil, a Muslim from Cedar Rapids and prays at Mother Mosque of America said that Trump is welcome to visit.
Abdalla, a Sudan native married to a Somali-born wife, added another twist to the whole conversation though, and it’s a thought held my many Muslims. He said “I don’t like my faith to be hijacked for political reasons.”
People leave their shoes in wooden cubbies at the door of the Masjid An-Noor mosque then go in either bare feet or in socks. The inside of the mosque is empty and only has an altar, located at the northeast corner. That’s where imam, the person who leads the prayer, stands facing Mecca.
The mosque hosts people from diverse backgrounds, and they come dressed differently. When you walk in, you see people wearing sweatshirts, jeans, official attires, among others.
One of the mosque leaders, Mohamad Khan says, “It looks like the United Nations. Many different cultures. I would say 20.”
Afrah Aden, an imam at the mosque, says that Islam isn’t about killing those who don’t share the same faith with you. He asserts that those who quote the Quran, particularly 2.191, are simply reading it out of context as it was basically used for a war situation as a way of defense against aggressors.
The bottom line, he says, is that terrorists are simply using the religion to recruit and radicalize members, but aren’t following the teachings of Muhammad.