Des Moines Register, Aug. 24, 2002
By SHIRLEY RAGSDALE
At 1:30 p.m. each Friday, people of the world gather at the Muslim Community Organization Mosque in Des Moines. They are from the United States, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Egypt, Tanzania, India, Pakistan, Iran, Sudan, Somalia and Indonesia.
Some are new immigrants. Some are naturalized citizens. Some are as American as baseball and apple pie. They are professionals, students, office and blue-collar workers.
This diverse congregation at the mosque at 1087 25th St. is united by prayer. Prayer five times a day.
An obligatory congregational prayer each Friday.
At such a service, Imam Mohamad Khan of Des Moines greets his congregation.
“As-salamu alaikum (Peace be to you),” Khan says in Arabic.
The worshipers respond: “Wa laikum salam (And to you, peace).”
It is a greeting these Muslims extend to all Iowans as we approach the anniversary of the Sept. 11 tragedy. In the months since the terrorist attacks, there have been few incidents of harassment of Muslims in the state, for which they are thankful. They also are grateful that Iowans have continued to express an interest in learning about Islam.
Khan has been participating in interfaith programs and educational forums in the Des Moines area for more than a decade, according to Forrest Harms, executive director of the Des Moines Area Religious Council.
“Of course there were a flood of opportunities for him to outline the Muslim faith since Sept. 11, but as far back as eight years ago he was inviting members of the Christian community to visit the Islamic center to experience their worship and learn about the religion,” Harms said.
The message Khan delivers each time is that Islam is a religion of peace, not war.
Islam is approaching 10,000 adherents in Des Moines, more than 4,000 of whom are Bosnian. There are more than 30,000 Muslims in Iowa attending 11 mosques – Ames, Clinton, two in Des Moines, Mason City, Sioux City, Davenport, Waterloo, Iowa City and two in Cedar Rapids.
Islam is one of three major world religions tracing its roots back to the Old Testament figure Abraham. Judaism and Christianity are the other two.
“I have a Jewish friend who read the Qu’ran and said it was pretty much like his Scripture,” Khan said. “Muslims must believe in the Jewish and Christian prophets as well as our own. We have a lot more in common than we disagree on.”
Khan knows the spectre of Sept. 11 has cast a shadow in some people’s minds regarding Islam. About 300 Muslims were killed on that day in New York, Pennsylvania and the Pentagon, along with thousands of people of other religions.
“We are very, very sorry that the tragedy happened,” He said. “We condemn it completely and wish that it never happens again. We want people to know that a few extreme radicals took a step against Islam on that day. We condemn anything they do to hurt innocent people.”