View from the Pew
A look inside Hawaii's houses of worship
By Mary AdamskiSaturday, March 24, 2001
THERE'S NO WAY to ease into a back pew and anonymously observe the action at Hawaii's only mosque. It's not just because the Islamic Center is cozy -- a converted house on Aleo Place in Manoa -- and the community relatively small. Nor the fact that there is no furniture in the mosque. You're conspicuous by not knowing the ritual of prayer, the movements and the Arabic words.
of all faiths
But, said Imam Zaid Shakir, a visitor is welcome, and "he could watch or could do whatever he's comfortable doing." (A woman is required to join the women in a separate room.)
"We have a good product but bad PR," said Shakir after a recent visit from two dozen Christians, Buddhists and others on the Open Table Pilgrimage. The monthly event provides a peek at various churches and temples. Our questions reflected misunderstandings about Islam generated by the media.
Don't mistake the religion for the nationalists who belong to it, was part of the message presented in a condensed Islam 101 talk given by Rashid Abdullah, an avid American convert who delighted in comparisons to his Catholic roots.
"We believe we are made to reflect the beautiful attributes of Allah ... patience, mercy, knowledge, forbearance, overlooking transgressions," said Shakir. He chose poetic and spiritual passages of the Koran, the word of God as recorded by Mohammed, to share.
Children were summoned to recite prayers and lessons in Arabic. The visitors' questions were pointed but polite: about the position of women in Islam, how to reconcile terrorism with the prophet's peace teachings.
The mood was light as men and women gathered outside, lining the edges of a rug to hear Moroccan immigrant Ashraf Marzouki and his Oahu-born wife, Janine, repeat vows. "Islamic marriage is to be a comfort for the couple. ... You should be the source of mercy for each other," the imam tells them.
The small crowd that day was a sample of the multinational Muslim community in Hawaii, from Pakistani and Egyptian professionals to American-born converts to recent immigrants from Palestine and Iraq, the mosque serves as a social center. About 200 men attend the midday Friday service. There were nearly 700 people at the holiday ending the monthlong Ramadan fast. Total membership is about 2,000.
WelcomeWe arrived, curious strangers booked for an introductory class. We were invited to stay for a wedding. What could be more welcoming than that?!
MessageEloquent preaching is not the primary quest for Muslims. The current Imam speaks on a passage from the Koran at the 1 p.m. Friday service. The 7 p.m. Saturday lecture is the best bet for visitors.
ParticipationThat's what going to the mosque is all about. One of the Five Pillars of Islam requires prayer five times a day. At the call "Allah Hu Akbar," it's kneel, then forehead-to-carpet prostration, stand, and start all over, while reciting prayers.
Mary Adamski covers religion for the Star-Bulletin.
Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.