Members of a Dunwoody mosque say the city’s elected officials and leaders have welcomed them warmly into the community and say they feel safe despite threats to other metro Atlanta mosques in recent weeks.
Several local residents, including Councilmembers Lynn Deutsch and John Heneghan, took advantage of “Visit a Mosque Day” on March 11 to check out the Masjid Uthman mosque located in the Dunwoody Park office complex and learn more about Islam.
“I came out of curiosity and feel like where we are in the world today, and as a Jewish person, it is important to understand each other,” said Joan Dwoskin of Dunwoody, who visited the mosque with her 10-year-old daughter, Eden, and two friends, Catherine Lautenbacher and Darby Christopher.
People of different faiths, backgrounds and culture share a common humanity, Dwoskin said, and despite the current political climate of nationalism, it is crucial people learn to understand each other.
“We’re all the same,” she said.
President Donald Trump’s recent executive order banning people from several Muslim-majority countries from coming to the U.S. has put many Muslim people on alert. Last month, a mosque in Lawrenceville received a death threat via a letter and three other metro Atlanta mosques received threatening emails.
In Dunwoody, though, members of Masjid Uthman said they are not afraid to worship.
“We are really blessed,” said Zubair Faridi. “We have a good relationship with city officials. We don’t feel threatened. That relationship is more powerful than any threat. Despite the threats, we feel very comfortable.”
During a PowerPoint presentation for the visitors on March 11, Faridi gave basic information about Islam, including information on the Pillars of Islam: faith, prayer, charity, fasting and pilgrimage to Mecca.
Islam, with 1.6 billion followers, is the second largest religion in the world, behind Christianity, which claims about 2.2 billion adherents, according to the Pew Research Center. Islam is also the fastest-growing religion in the world, Pew reports.
Khalid Bashir of Dunwoody, a founding member of the Dunwoody mosque and a physician at Morehouse School of Medicine, said there are about 150 people who come to Friday prayers at the mosque while dozens of people visit the mosque every day during regular prayers.
The mosque was founded in 2014 and was formerly housed on Mount Vernon Road. Members typically live and work in Perimeter Center, Bashir said.
“We do community service and outreach and a monthly food drive,” Bashir said. “We want to build bridges with other religions.”
Bashir said Masjid Unthman has developed relationships with area churches, including Dunwoody Baptist Church.
“It is good practice to reach out when times are good,” Bashir said. “Then in bad times we can vouch for each other.”
Bashir said the mosque has received cards from people wishing its members well.
“There are mainly good people in this country,” Bashir said. “But it is the negative that always gets the attention.”
Bashir and Faridi also answered questions from visitors. Faridi explained the word “jihad,” which many have come to understand as meaning “holy war,” actually means an internal struggle to resist temptation.
Faridi also explained that Masjid Uthman members are Sunni. The countries of Iran and Iraq are majority Shia, he said, while India is predominantly Sunni.