Talia Alvi doesn’t just think it’s important for people of different faiths to work to-ward understanding. She thinks it’s absolutely vital.
“Im-portant is a huge understatement,” Alvi, an outreach coordinator for a mosque in Bettendorf, said. “I think it’s absolutely critical people be more understanding of all faiths, not just Islam.”
In the “global village,” there can be no true peace, unless people from all races, religions and backgrounds come together in mutual respect, according to Alvi.
“Where there is ignorance, there is very often misunderstanding,” Alvi said. “It is a very human reaction to fear the un-known.”
To members of the Clin-ton Islamic Center, there is no better time than the holy month of Ram-adan for those unfamiliar with the Islamic faith to broaden a few horizons.
Ramadan, recognized during the ninth month of the lunar calendar, is one of the most important times of year for muslims. Practicing Muslims refrain from food and drink during the day, and spend much of the evenings praying. In certain times during the month, Muslims believe that a single prayer can achieve the same spiritual significance as 82 years worth of prayer on normal days.
Fasting is more than just denying the body nutrients. Muslims must all keep a pure mind, avoid conflicts and try to attain God-consciousness through peaceful living.
Once the sun sets, water and dates are passed around, the first refreshment since the sun rose in the morning. Following this small meal, called Iftar, Muslims pray, facing the Kaaba in Mecca. Following prayer, a hearty meal is held.
On Sundays and Wednesdays during Ramadan, the Muslim community in Clinton gathers at the CIC, to socialize and practice their faith as a community. The public is always welcome to attend, chat and share ideas.
Dr. Anis Ansari, president of the Clinton Muslims Society, said the potluck meal that follows the early prayers is a great chance for the Islamic community to interact with members of other faiths.
Dr. Joe Monahan, a self-described Irish Catholic, visited the CIC Wednesday night to enjoy the meal. Monahan is an ER physician and colleague of Dr. Ansari’s. After about four years of needling, Monahan broke down and decided to attend.
“They said they were going to feed me,” Monahan said. “That’s what got me here.”
The meal, an eclectic mix of mediterranean dishes, represents several different cultures. Rice and potatoes, chicken, and beef are prepared at home by CIC members, and shared with the community. Pizza is available for those with less adventurous palates.
Saad Ansari, Dr. Ansari’s son and a Clinton High School senior, said his fasting during the month of Ramadan does not go unnoticed. However, he sees this as a positive sign.
“It’s a lot more apparent when I’m fasting when I sit down at the lunch table,” he said. “They ask me, ‘Why aren’t you eating?’ It’s a very good way to spread the word. Everybody is very curious.”
Dr. Mona Alqulali believes that opening lines of communication is the first brick in the road to understanding.
“It’s basically familiarizing people,” she said. “Knowledge is power.”
She said that Islam has the potential to be cast in a bad light. Educating people is the main way to prevent the misconceptions about the faith from spreading, Alqulali said. If people of different faiths made the effort to understand Islam, they might see how similar beliefs can be.
“The correlations that you make subconsciously because of the media or the politics,” she said. “That’s more detrimental than anything.”
Though the CIC works hard to fight stereotypes, several members expressed satisfaction that Clinton, as a community, has embraced members of all faiths with open arms.
“It’s been a wonderful community,” Alvi said.