Shabbir Motorwala has stopped condemning terrorism at his mosque.
Instead, he has spent the month of Ramadan focusing on educating non-Muslims about his faith.
“What the terrorists are doing is not in my name, so I will not talk about them and instead ignore them,” said Motorwala, founding member of COSMOS, the Coalition of South Florida Muslim Organizations.
In Motorwala’s experience as a Muslim living in America, he knows that to some people, a mosque is seen as a breeding ground for terrorism.
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To overcome the stigma, five mosques in South Florida held open houses during the month of Ramadan to encourage non-Muslims to observe prayer, take tours and engage in dialogue.
“People will come in and see someone they know and they are surprised to see that they are Muslim,” said Motorwala, who works with the Islamic Center of Greater Miami at the Miami Gardens Mosque. “We are just like any normal American who loves football and apple pie but a lot of people don’t realize that.”
Ramadan ends on Sunday with the celebration of Eid-al-Fitr.
Naveed Anjum of the Islamic School of Miami in Kendall explained that the month of Ramadan is a time to reflect on spiritual growth, patience, compassion and unity across communities.
His school also participated in the open houses, which he sees as an opportunity to build bridges and eliminate stereotypes.
“Hosting events like the open houses is especially important in times like these when attacks in London are turning into regular occurrences,” Anjum said. “We live in a country where basically we are in the minority and we need non-Muslims to understand that we are the same beautiful children as them.”
The London Bridge and Borough Market attack on the evening of June 3 left eight people dead. Three men carried out the attack using a rental van and knives as weapons. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.
After a terrorist attack, it is not easy for Motorwala and the other members at his mosque. Sometimes, they are not sure how to react, but most often they are proactive.
“Anytime there has been an attack we try to reach out to the community,” Motorwala said. “At one point we had a billboard that said ‘ISIS You Suck And Don’t Represent Us’, and we do newsletters that say, ‘Hate for none, respect for all’.”
Naveed, who has been living in the United States for over 25 years, said all Muslims should not be condemned for the violent acts of others, and that the whole population should not be blamed, citing President Donald Trump’s travel ban.
One of the first major orders of Trump’s presidency, the travel ban stops people from traveling to the United States from several Muslim-majority countries and was recently appealed by a second federal court.
Yet, despite everything, Naveed finds renewed hope after an attack leaves his community of faith open to scrutiny and discrimination.
“I see it as an opportunity that when these things happen, which are things I would never want to happen, people will come to us wanting to know more about Islam or they will seek out information online,” Naveed said. “Unfortunately, most the time the blame comes down upon the total Muslim population, but really the basis of Islam is to constantly help out all those in need. To be compassionate and loving.”
Both the Islamic School of Miami and the Islamic Center of Greater Miami at the Miami Garden Mosque are hosting Eid Ul Fitr events on Sunday morning that are open to the public:
▪ Islamic School of Miami - Al Noor Mosque, 11699 SW 147th Ave.
8:15 a.m. lecture, prayer, discussion
Contact: Naveed Anjum, firstname.lastname@example.org
▪ Islamic Center of Greater Miami at the Miami Garden Mosque, 4305 NW 183rd St.
8 a.m. lecture, prayer, discussion
Contact: Shabbir Motorwala, email@example.com