Last Friday night, the Utah Islamic Center’s mosque was packed with people. Some were praying, but most sat on the floor observing the Friday night prayers.
This mosque in Sandy regularly holds open houses during its Friday night prayer service for the public to come and observe, ask questions, and mingle over food.
But since President Donald Trump’s election, The Utah Islamic Center has seen an influx of curious visitors. The numbers have been further amplified since the president signed an executive order banning immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries.
After the prayers, Muslim worshippers take questions from the visitors. They cover topics ranging from the fundamental beliefs of Islam to why many Muslim women choose to wear headscarves.
The mosque’s imam, Shuaib Din, takes the opportunity to tell the group of nearly 200 people about similarities between the beliefs of Muslims, Christians and Jews, including events and prophets from the Old Testament.
“Moses carrying his people to safety, the Red Sea splitting in half… all of that [is] in the Quran,” he says, adding that Muslims also believe in the virgin birth of Jesus.
Imam Shuaib says the mosque’s doors are always open, but he’s taken extra care to invite members of the public since the November election. He wants people to learn about Islamic beliefs and practices from actual Muslims rather than from what they read on the internet.
“After the November elections we felt people would like to reach out to us, and we, of course, would like to reach out to the people,” the Imam said.
Joseph Langford and Lindsie Hill came to the event, dubbed “Meet the Muslims” after the ubiquitous Mormon campaign. He said he came into the mosque with concerns about Muslim extremists.
“They were everything I hoped they would be,” Langford said afterward, calling the Muslim hosts “friendly.”
“Everyone can live their lives how they want,” he said.
“As soon as you realize people are people, most other concerns go away,” Hill adds.
The Utah Islamic Center will hold an open house at its mosque in Sandy every Friday night through the month of February.