A Tulsa native and convert to Islam who studied Islam and Arabic in Egypt and Kuwait is the new imam at the Islamic Society of Tulsa.
Imam John Ederer preached his first sermon Friday as the spiritual leader of the mosque at 4630 S. Irvington Ave.
“My dear brothers and sisters in Islam,” he said, “it is a huge blessing to be back here in Tulsa.”
In a message in English and interlaced with Arabic, Ederer talked about the importance of an Arabic term loosely translated “etiquette,” which includes learning how to relate well with all people and developing character traits of humility, concern for others, forgiveness and generosity.
Masood Kasim, chairman of the Islamic Society of Tulsa, said it has been more than three years since the mosque had a full-time imam.
In an interview Monday, Ederer said he got interested in Islam just out of high school after talking with a Muslim co-worker at the Olive Garden in Utica Square.
He bought a Quran at Borders, he said, and as he read it, “I really felt like my philosophical, spiritual concerns were being filled in.”
In 1998, at age 18, Ederer embraced Islam, he said. A year and a half later he became involved in the mosque, “which made me a better person.”
In 2002, he accepted a scholarship to study at Islamic American University in Southfield, Michigan, and after two years there, he went to Egypt to continue his studies in Islam, and to learn Arabic.
He studied in Egypt for one year, and then in Kuwait for four years. During that time he became fluent in Arabic, and memorized the Quran in Arabic from cover to cover.
Ederer returned to the United States in 2009, served as imam at a mosque in south Florida for two years, and then in Charlotte, North Carolina, for four years.
He was invited to preach at the Islamic Society of Tulsa’s Eid service in July marking the end of Ramadan, and after that he was offered the position of imam in Tulsa.
“It’s awesome to be back,” he said.
Ederer said the biggest misconception Americans have about Islam is that it is a strange religion that just “popped up in Arabia out of nowhere.”
“There’s so much commonality in basis and root with the other Abrahamic traditions, Judaism and Christianity,” he said.
He also said that American Christians think that Allah is the Muslim God. Allah is the Arabic word for God, he said, used by some 44 million Arab Christians.
A third misconception is that Islam oppresses women, he said.
That is untrue, he said. Twice as many American women are converting to Islam as men.
Ederer and his wife, Yasmine, have two sons, Majeed, 8, and Rasheed, 5.