People of all faiths were welcomed with warm smiles and open arms last Sunday as the Islamic Center of Stillwater participated in a statewide Open Mosque Day.
In addition to being able to show off their new facility at 616 N. Washington St., the program was set up so speakers could educate guests about Islam and the Muslim faith in a comfortable setting.
Guests also had the opportunity to sample food and drink from around the world.
After Natarianto Indrawan sang Adhan – the Muslim call to prayer – Habeeb Idress explained to the audience that Muslims pray five times a day.
“Prayer is a private dialogue between you and Allah,” Idress said.
The audience watched as rows of standing men knelt down, bowed and touched their foreheads to the ground over and over again.
“I’m very happy to see people from throughout the community attending,” Indrawan said. “This event could unite everyone without thinking where they are from or what their background is and can make Stillwater stronger.”
Hatim Hegab, public cultural coordinator for the Islamic Center of Stillwater, couldn’t agree more.
“We were trying to build bridges between the Islamic Center and the people in Stillwater,” he said.
Hegab said that since roughly 60 percent of practicing Muslims in the immediate area are Oklahoma State University students, the event was “a good opportunity to meet people and make friends.”
Hegab was hopeful guests walked away with their questions answered and a better understanding of Islam.
The event has been going on approximately 15 years, according to Hegab.
The community is encouraged to come by and ask questions, Hegab said.
OSU students Matt Durkee, 22, Ethan Williams, 19, and Cooper Kegley, 18, who attend First Presbyterian Church of Stillwater, said they were impressed with what they saw last Sunday.
They were invited to attend by their pastor, Leah Hrachovec, who was one of the guest speakers.
“I’m surprised how normal it was,” said Durkee, aerospace engineering master’s student.
Williams said he had always been curious about Islam and Kegley, who are both aviation majors, noted the similarities.
“We are really not that different,” Kegley said. “We both pray to God.”
Nathan Schoenfeld, 20, an entrepreneurship major, also stopped by to see the mosque.
“Islam is not well known in Arkansas,” Schoenfeld said about the state where he grew up. “It is really just different people with different religions praying to the same God.”
Stephanie Wheatley was a 19-year-old political science major at OSU when America was attacked on 9/11.
She remembers hearing people saying negative things about Islam and Muslims and called her father to vent.
“What are you going to do about it?” she remembers him asking.
She went on to get her doctorate and has taught religious studies at OSU.
“Jesus’ most famous sermon in the gospel is the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew,” Wheatley said. “Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the peace makers, for they will be called children of God.’ I don’t think that is just blessed are the Christian peace makers or the Jewish peace makers or the Muslim peace makers. Blessed are the peace makers, without provocation, for they will be called the children of God. I think if we can focus on that, we’ve done something.”