back to news Dec. 14, 2016

Muslim Community Opens its Mosque and Hearts to Columbus

On Saturday, Dec. 2, Arts and Sciences students, faculty and staff were among the Ohio State Muslim Students Association's guests at a “Get to Know Your Neighbors” open house at the Masjid Omar Ibn El-Khattab mosque, located just a few miles north of campus. The event had been originally scheduled in response to the inflammatory rhetoric about Muslims circulated throughout the presidential election. However, the Nov. 28 campus attack created an added sense of urgency and gravity to the agenda.

“It was very important for us to hold this event to give an opportunity to hear it straight from us, rather than to hear from us as a reaction to certain events in the media or certain events that have happened,” said Basil Gohar, president of Masjid Omar's board of directors. “We want people to come to us, learn from us, engage with us. We don’t want people’s opinions to form just based on current events.”

Joined by other members of the Ohio State community, the Columbus community and members of the mosque, the group of more than 200 observed traditional Muslim prayer, listened to speakers share the values and tenets of Islam and participated in a lengthy question-and-answer session. The event — more than three hours in length — was emblematic of the need for more frequent, open dialogue.

Zack Meyer, a graduate student in theatre, attended the event because it promoted healing and building community.

“We have become a society of labeling,” said Meyer. “If you say that you are one thing, like a Muslim or a Christian, people automatically label you with list of qualities. With more experiences like this open house, we can break those lists and start humanizing individuals rather than seeing them as part of a list.”

photo of Gretchen Klinger
Gretchen Klingler (right), a second-year Arts and Sciences student majoring in anthropology and Arabic, aims to work with immigrants and refugees from Middle Eastern countries coming to Western nations.

Allison Snow, professor of evolution, ecology and organismal biology, went to the open house because she was eager to learn more about Islam and the perspectives of Muslims in Columbus.

“I feel even more sympathy for the difficulties that many Muslims must face in everyday life in America due to hostile insults and accusations from politicians and others. I hope the obvious goodwill and open communication that was evident at the open house can continue to spread as people in our communities get to know and understand each other better.”

As an Arabic major at Ohio State, Gretchen Klingler has several friends who are Muslim. Because of the campus attack, she has watched as they have become even more concerned about heightened negative actions and reactions.

“I really feel like this program opened the doors for honest and respectful dialogue,” said Klinger, who is also an anthropology major. “It is important to explore the way in which practitioners of Islam believe and understand their faith, and not just the way that people outside of the faith perceive their beliefs.”

Those who would like to collaborate with the Ohio State's Muslim Student Association or become involved with MSA in any capacity can simply submit an Involvement Form. The Columbus chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) offers diversity and sensitivity training to organizations, educational institutions, corporations and government agencies. To request a speaker, complete the Speaker Request Form.

Photos: Jo McCulty, University Marketing