Utah Islamic Center holds meet-and-greet
Imam Shuaib Din, Brother Junaid and Sister Maysa answer questions from the audience. (Keyra Kristoffersen/City Journals)
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Since November, the Utah Islamic Center in Sandy has taken several Friday and Sunday evenings to invite the public to come and learn more about their Muslim neighbors, their history and their faith through a program called “Meet the Muslims.”
“We encourage all questions. It’s better to get it from us, what we believe, what we practice, than to get it somewhere else,” said Shuaib Din, the imam for the Utah Islamic Center. As imam, Din is responsible for leading the prayers and acting as spiritual leader for his mosque.
Volunteers from the congregation stood up to explain key aspects of Islamic belief and cultural practices to a packed room of mostly visitors. The presentation began with an explanation of the similarities between Christianity and Islam.
“We bring people together to understand other people’s faith so they have better understanding and tolerance,” said Asim Shaiban, a member of the Interfaith Council at Utah Valley University.
Sister Saba spoke of the core Islamic Articles of Faith followed by Brother Kasin explaining the Five Pillars of Islam, or basic acts of Muslim life.
“Islam is about coming together and love,” said Kasin.
Sister Shahid Safi discussed the wearing of the hijab, or head covering many Muslim women voluntarily wear, and its meaning as a barrier and protection, as well as reminder of behavior proper for a woman of God.
The presentations concluded with Brother Junaid, a first-generation American-Muslim from Illinois, detailing Sharia Law and the true meaning of Jihad.
“The overwhelming number of people of our faith do not agree or feel comfortable with the misrepresentation of a small group of extremists,” Junaid said. Junaid goes on to say that Sharia Law is meant to help maintain the daily and spiritual needs of those living in Islamic-controlled lands, but that some twist it and take it out of context.
So much interest has been generated in the Meet the Muslims events since beginning in November that it was expanded to include programs every Friday in February to accommodate visitors.
“I think it was really educational and I think I want to come back next year,” said Monae Kingler, a young attendee who came with her mother, Jenelle Kingler. “My favorite part was watching them do the prayer.”
After the presentations, a question-and-answer portion was conducted and questions about everything from women’s rights to differences between Suni and Shiite Muslims as well as the Sufi or mystical aspects of Islam were fielded by Din, Junaid and Maysa.
“We have very good friends in our neighborhood who are Muslim and I was very encouraged to learn more about their religion because everything I've seen so far has been so peaceful,” said Jenelle Kingler. “This has been incredibly unifying.”
Visitors were also treated to some traditional Middle Eastern foods to try, as well as lessons on putting on the hijab and pamphlets and literature on the Islamic faith.
“On average, we’ve had about 150 people at each event and this is our 10th event,” said Din. “It’s good for us to visit each other’s places of worship and feel comfortable. If there’s a church that burns, Muslims should feel pain in their hearts, and if there’s a mosque that burns, Christians should feel pain their hearts, because we’re all in it together.”
Thanks to donations and fundraising, the Utah Islamic Center is currently in the design phase on a new mosque project that would take them from their current small storefront in Sandy, which currently holds only around 200–300 members, to a brand new larger building in West Jordan. They are hoping to break ground in 2018.
Information about the Utah Islamic Center can be found at utislamiccenter.org/ or by visiting the center at 9000 S. 225 W. in Sandy.