The open-minded residents of San Luis Obispo County have a new occasional pastime; dropping in on their Muslim neighbors at the Mosque of Nasreen for tours and refreshments.
The events started out as an annual feature, held by the 300 congregants of the mosque on Walnut Street in SLO but, said Hisham Assal, past-president the Islamic Society of SLO County, they’ve grown more frequent, and he thinks necessary in the current political climate.
They’ve also grown more popular; in February over 700 people came to an outreach event, far out stripping the maximum 72-person occupancy limit of the mosque’s prayer hall. That prompted a move to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in SLO.
Still, there’s something special about being invited in the small community’s spiritual home directly, so they’re planning more events this year. One was held the day before Easter and another is coming in May.
“People have always had some level of interest,” said Assal on April 16, after leading a tour, “They ask us about coming to services [sometimes after hearing the quiet call to prayer in the courtyard], sometimes we have a class from Cal Poly with 30 or so students coming at once. That gets crowded.”
The hosting of the February event by the congregation’s Mormon neighbors was a good example, said an Islamic Society board member, Riman Alfadel, of the interfaith connections they foster and the common interests shared in SLO. The Women’s March movement, which made a splash in SLO around the presidential inauguration, is another such ongoing collaboration between those groups, she said.
While community and fellowship isn’t necessarily always political, the educational topics that are routinely addressed at the open houses touch on often misunderstood or sensitive topics including; “What does Islam say about terrorism?” “Rights of Women in Islam,” and “Understanding of Shariah.”
Story and Photos by Camas Frank