On a recent Saturday in October, the halls of the Al-Farooq Islamic Center were filled with friends and neighbors from its surrounding south Nashville location.
In one room, the center’s female members greeted women visitors and showed how to don traditional clothes, applied henna, and discussed women’s role in the culture. In the mosque, displays told the story of Muslim’s in the United States, highlighting the many contributions to art, culture, and technology. And at the front of the room, Dr. Sabeel Ahmed gathered visitors to hear a presentation about the historic relationship between Jews and Muslims throughout history.
“Fear of the unknown is the hardest hurdle,” said Ahmed, who works with GainPeace, a non-profit organization that aims to educate about Islam and to help dispel myths. “Our goal is to build bridges through understand,” Ahmed said. The 30-minute presentation highlighted the similarities shared by the two cultures. For example, Ahmed said a common misconception is how God is defined. “Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all have the same creator. We each have a different name based on our cultural language,” he said. Notable is that the most mentioned prophet in the Quran is Moses, with the second being Abraham.
After the presentation, members of the center served lunch, which provided an opportunity to talk further over the meal. Katelyn Benhoff waited for her lunch and said she has lived in the neighborhood for three years. “I typically go to the Kroger and saw the sign about the open house. I wanted to meet the neighbors here and get a feel for what’s going on,” she said.
Ali Baker has lived in Nashville since his early teens. Baker, dressed in traditional garb, gave tours of the grounds, and answered questions. “We have 17 acres here and are working to restore some of the building and outdoor areas,” he said. He explained that the building was badly damaged during the 2010 flood and the Islamic Center has been working to continue renovations. Included in that is the main building, gym, and outdoor fields and play areas.
The Jewish Observer is published by The Jewish Federation of Greater Nashville and made possible by funds raised in the Jewish Federation Annual Campaign. Become a supporter today.