FAHAD MOSQUE IS A GOOD NEIGHBOR,
RELIGIOUS AND CIVIC LEADERS SAY
By Roger Angle
The King Fahad Mosque couldn’t be in a more American
setting. Across the street from a 7-Eleven convenience store and a Christian church, it also sits kitty-corner from a gun
Neighbors could be forgiven if they were suspicious of the swarthy men flocking to the Culver City location,
at Huron Avenue and Washington Boulevard. After all, the mosque was paid for by the Saudi royal family, to the tune of more
than $10 million. And we’ve all heard stories of mosques in foreign countries and even in New Jersey being involved
in terrorist planning.
Local observers have been known to speculate that the mosque might be a center of anti-American
sentiment or have members who were sympathetic to terrorists or even terrorists themselves.
But according to various
civic and religious leaders, and officials of the mosque itself, nothing could be further from the truth.
W. Davis, president of the Culver City Area Interfaith Alliance, said, “We are doing what we need to do to establish
mutual respect and understanding. You can’t understand someone if you don’t know them.”
who is also the administrator at Westside Unity church, “got really involved” in this interfaith effort after
the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Davis attended a worship service at the mosque, performing the ceremonial
washing of the feet and hands and sitting through prayers and a sermon. She and other civic and religious leaders have been
to the mosque a number of times, met with its people, and worked on various projects together. The Interfaith Alliance was
created by a city proclamation, which got a lot of these efforts started.
Davis said the mosque “is just
another house of worship and it is very welcome in Culver City.”
Not only do the mosque’s leaders
meet with other religions regularly, they are also working to bring to life Daniel Jacoby’s dream.
was co-founder of the dot-com company Digital Insight, which pioneered the computer technology used in online banking. A Malibu
resident, Jacoby had terminal brain cancer. Before he died, in March, at the age of 38, his dream was to set up a summer camp
for children of all religions. The camp, “Interfaith Inventions,” is expected to take place for the first time
in New Mexico this coming summer. Usman Madha, director of public relations for the mosque, expects the camp to be active
next year, 2005, here in California “and all over the country.”
Davis thinks the summer camp, a broad
interfaith effort to prevent stereotyping and prejudice, is an important project.
Madha, who works closely with
Davis on the Interfaith Alliance, recently returned from a visit to Istanbul. In a separate interview, he described a religious
center there with a mosque, a Jewish temple and a Christian church all in one compound.
“From a distance,”
said Madha, gesturing with his hands and smiling, “you can see the minaret and the cross on the church spire and the
symbol of Judaism, and they have been there for centuries, coexisting happily. They even celebrate each other’s religious
Madha and other local religious leaders suggested that is what they are trying to accomplish
with the summer camp and with the interfaith efforts in Culver City.
Pastor James S. Maines, of Grace Lutheran
Church, at Overland and Franklin avenues, has nothing but positive feelings for the mosque and its leaders.
had my own misgivings,” said Pastor Jim, as he is known among his parishioners. “But they have come to our interfaith
meetings and hosted them at the mosque, and they have come to the interfaith picnic. Usman Madha came with his family. I wasn’t
expecting that, and I was very pleased and impressed. Everyone from the mosque has been very open and supportive” of
the city’s interfaith efforts.
Maines understands that residents of the city might be suspicious of the
mosque. But they should not be too quick to cast stones. “’Judge not lest ye be judged’,” he said,
quoting the Bible.
Hostility among people of different faiths is regrettable, Maines added. “I believe it
saddens the heart of God in Heaven.”
City Council member Carol A. Gross went to a service at the mosque
on the first Friday after the terrorists attacks on 9-11.
“It just happened on the spur of the moment,”
she said. “I knew a woman from the mosque who was at a meeting at city hall, and she said she was going to the service,
so I said why don’t I go with you.
“They didn’t know I was there, that a council member was
there, until after the meeting. Sheik Tajuddin Shuaib was very outspoken about the terrorist attacks. He said it was against
the Koran, and he gave references.
“He spoke against suicide. He said if you come too soon to Heaven, Allah
will say he does not know you, and you should not be here yet, and he will banish you to the outer darkness forever.
“He said the Koran forbids violence, especially against innocent people, and against women and children, and against
the disabled. You are not to harm one tree, or pollute one stream. So those attacks were far beyond the bounds of the Koran.
“One man in the crowd spoke out loudly and nastily against the U.S. for supporting for the way the Israelis
were treating the Palestinians. And they threw him out of the mosque. I mean a group of men gathered around him and bodily
escorted him out.
“A few hours later that same man, a Palestinian, was arrested for cutting the hands off
a statue at St. Augustine’s Church, over on Washington across from Sony.”
The atmosphere around the
mosque was tense after the terrorists attacks.
“The day after 9-11,” Gross said, “they found
a cardboard box outside the mosque. They called the police, and everyone was very afraid, and the bomb squad came. But you
know what was inside? Flowers. With a note from the neighborhood children.
“I think these people were saying,
‘We’re not blaming you for what some yo-yos did in New York on 9-11’.”
Gross feels that
members of the mosque are truly part of the community. “I think Culver City is more of a melting pot than people realize.
And I think there are many misconceptions out there. The more you see of these people, the more you sit and talk to them,
the more you realize that they are just folks like the rest of us.”
Father Ramón Palomera, associate
pastor at St. Augustine’s Catholic Church said of the mosque and its members, “We are all the sons and daughters
of God, and we are all searching for happiness, and we find our happiness in our faith.”
Asked about any
possible suspicions by people in Culver City, Sheik Shuaib said, “We are far, far from being terrorists. We had a meeting
with the FBI, and I told them, ‘I may not wear the badge, but I would be the first person to inform on any individual
that I knew who was plotting a terrorist act’.”
He added, “Fear is a very dangerous thing. And
it is mostly fear of the unknown. We welcome anybody to come here any time and meet us and get to know us and see what we
Shuaib also said, “These fanatics (the terrorists) destroy Islam. And they make it very hard
for me to do my job, which is to spread the word and tell people what Islam is all about.”
The issue of
religious tolerance is important to Doris Davis, who is studying to become an interfaith minister. She wants to provide spiritual
counseling to people from a broad spectrum of religions, an effort that she said is central to her life. “I think it’s
time we stopped killing each other in the name of God.”