For those of us who live in or near New Tampa who aren’t of the Islamic faith, it can be difficult, considering the state of the world these days, to embrace those who are or consider themselves to be Muslims.
And, considering that I was living in New York City when the first Islamic mosque, or place of worship, opened there — and the number of people of the Islamic faith who I have known, done business with or utilized as physicians in this community, I was a little embarrassed to admit that I had never stepped foot inside a mosque until February 21, when the Islamic Society of New Tampa, located at 15830 Morris Bridge Rd. (just a little bit north of Cross Creek Blvd.), hosted an Open House at its Daarus Salaam Mosque.
Like many of the hundreds of people who had never visited the New Tampa mosque before Feb. 21, I found out about the Open House from the ad in our publication, although I also received a personal invitation to attend from Bilal Saleh, the owner of Zaytoun Mediterranean Grill, which is located less than a mile away. In fact, Bilal told me that at least 65-70 percent of the people who visited the mosque for the first time that day, found out about the Open House from this publication.
And, although I already knew some of the facts about the Muslim religion presented on the two dozen or so information boards displayed inside the mosque that day, there was quite a bit of historical and other information that I had never heard before or simply misunderstood.
Despite my embarrassment about my lack of knowledge about the Muslim views of the faith’s relationship to Judaism and Christianity, the role of women in Muslim society and some of the teachings of the Qur’an (Koran), the central religious text of Islam, I was at the event to learn more about the faith, so I read every message board and even found a group of young ladies who were more than willing to help teach me things I didn’t know or understand before.
A Very Special Remembrance
Bilal introduced me to several people as I walked around the grounds of the mosque. One of the people I met, a local physician, told me we had actually met once before…shortly after 9-11, when the Islamic Society and leaders of other local churches (as well as the now-defunct Temple Ohev Shalom of Tampa Palms) came together for a joint prayer vigil held at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church. The doctor had hand-written and mailed me a note asking me to attend the event. He was so touched that I not only attended, but that I sought him out to thank him for taking the time to write and send me such a beautiful invitation.
I know some people…and even some candidates for president…dislike or distrust people of the Muslim faith, but I don’t believe in judging people, especially without meeting or getting to know them. All I know is that I felt very welcomed at the New Tampa mosque and saw beautiful families who love not only their faith and their place of worship, but also the community in which they live and work.