Meet Your Muslim Neighbors: Mosque event aims to bridge gap between religions

FRONT ROYAL – A local mosque hopes to clear up misconceptions of Islam and form connections with people of other faiths at the fourth annual Meet Your Muslim Neighbors.

The event is set for noon to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Khatme Nubuwwat Center, 1602 Strasburg Road.

It will begin with lectures and presentations on Islam, followed by a question-and-answer segment and lunch. A prayer session will then be held in which Imam Omar Khan said: “people could join or observe.” He said the program would wrap up with “tea time and social activities and round-table discussions.”

Khan said the event is “a unity-based program” that aims to bring together different faiths “to build some contacts, to build bridges, and go outside of our boxes.”

Another aim of the program is to remove misconceptions surrounding Islam. Khan noted that although there are “bad sheep” in the religion,  “the evil is 1 percent” and does not represent the whole. He added that unfortunately, those misconceptions are usually the first item that appears during a Google search on the religion.

While the negative views of Islam are the most amplified, he said he hopes programs such as Meet Your Muslim Neighbors can “amplify the real voice.”

“We are really kind of getting the hit nowadays, and it’s become even more essential that we explain our religion, so there are no misconceptions,” he said.

Khan recalled one question-and-answer segment in which someone asked questions based on websites “that propagate the wrong things about us.” The response cleared up  those points that were “completely opposite of our religion.”

He said the vast majority of Muslims do not or would not follow a religion that teaches immoral values or illogical and dangerous facts.

“Why would people subscribe to that? We are a religion that people do convert to, people do come into it, people accept it, people find peace, people become more human due to it. So that’s the reality of it,” Khan said.

While Khan estimated the Islam community in Front Royal, Stephens City, and Winchester to consist of about 100 families, he said it is important for them to work with other religions and groups that share common goals.

He said those goals include humanitarian efforts and hopes of humanizing all faiths. This has already come to fruition, as Khan said when “people join us for our programs, we join them for their programs.”

For example, members of the mosque participated last year in the Shen Valley Artists Group at its Voices of Diversity event.

Tammy Ruggiero, one of the event’s organizers, said Muslims contributed music and an “impromptu spoken word about jihad that was drop-the-mic powerful.”

She said that “some in our audience had never heard from a Muslim person before.” While she was told of some initial anxiousness, “after they heard them talk and share their pieces people were transformed and they were actually some of the most popular people by the end.”

Correction: This story has been updated with the correct spelling of Imam Omar Khan’s name.