MONTVILLE, NJ – It started with a posting on the Montville Moms’ community Facebook page. On Feb. 2, Montville resident Marie Tripaldi asked if any mosques in the area would be hosting visits, because in the U.K., where Tripaldi is from, that weekend was “Visit My Mosque” day.
Tripaldi said she was not able to attend the OneMontville Martin Luther King Day of Respect and Community Service, when Jame-e-Masjid Islamic Center (JMIC) held an open house.
Shortly after, the invitation came out from JMIC, via a posting from member Kulsum Aamer.
“JMIC invites the Montville Moms and their families to ‘Meet your Muslim Neighbors’ on Sunday, March 5. Visit the mosque, have a tour of the facility, learn about the history of the JMIC and have plenty of opportunity to ask questions. Thank you, Marie, for initiating the visit. We are very excited to welcome the Montville Moms and their families,” she wrote on the Facebook page.
About 100 visitors came for the event. First attendees had a question-and-answer session with members in an assembly room.
Hamida Mahmood Amanat, who is a trustee at the center, talked about her background.
“I grew up in India, but had to go to Catholic school,” she said with a laugh. “When I came to this country, I taught Christian studies at a Jewish school, dressed in a sari. My principal was Catholic.”
She went on to describe starting what is now the JMIC from a community with the desire to have Sunday school lessons and be a place for the community to gather and learn about their culture and Islam.
Shurah Council Member Gul Khan then spoke about the Muslim faith. He described the five pillars it is based on: faith; prayer five times a day; charity; fasting, especially during the month of Ramadan; and the pilgrimage to Mecca, the holy city.
He also described how the followers of Islam, Judaism and Christianity are related and share common traits. Abraham plays a major role in all three, they each believe in one god, many prophets are “shared,” and pork is not eaten by followers of two of the religions.
Khan spoke of the need for people to come together, and described how, after the recent desecration of two Jewish cemeteries in the U.S., crowd funding begun by a mosque towards paying for repairs shows how people of different faiths can reach out to others.
“But it’s important for it to be one-to-one, like this,” he said.
Khan introduced Morris County Sheriff Jim Gannon, who was in attendance.
Gannon talked about the safety of religious worshippers, buildings and artifacts and urged attendees to come together, saying, “We all have to have ownership.” He asked those present to let law enforcement know if they see something suspicious. He said patrols had been stepped up near the mosque.
He called the open house a “model” that he hoped other houses of worship would follow.
Attendees were then treated to snacks and a tour of the prayer area. The visitors also observed the sunset call to prayer.
“It was such a lovely experience,” said Tripaldi. “Thank you so much to all the JMIC members who welcomed us, and to all the Montville and Boonton residents who came too. It was just a lovely time and I'm so glad we were able to meet you all, and let our children see the amazing way you follow your religion and foster community relations.”
“We are so glad it was not only well received but much appreciated,” said JMIC member Kulsum Aamer.
“Thank you Montville Moms and other community friends for visiting us!” said JMIC member Fatima Sami Amanat. “Love, kindness and respect for one another make Montville and the surrounding towns a pretty awesome community. We are looking forward to meeting everyone again soon.”
“In just a few hours we learned so much about these welcoming people and were treated to a beautiful call to prayer followed by a community service,” said Montville resident Jerry Vella. “It was a wonderful experience. I only wish more could have been there.”