Monday, October 12, 2015
Visit to Mission Viejo Mosque (Open Mosque Day)
On October 11, I visited the Orange County Islamic Foundation mosque in Mission Viejo, California. This mosque was participating along with several other Orange County mosques in an annual event known as Open Mosque Day, in which the public is invited in for a tour and Islam 101 lecture by one of their officials. The above mosque is small and consists of a meeting room, a small bookstore, the prayer room and a fully accredited school (K-3).
* I should note that there were news reports that the previous day (October 10), anti-Islam protests were supposed to be held in front of mosques around the country. That was an entirely separate matter in which I did not participate.
Upon arrival I was greeted by several volunteer guides and mosque leaders. Eventually, two ladies, one from Lebanon and a college student who was born in Afghanistan, led me and a few others on a tour of the mosque and school. The school gives instruction in English with lessons in Arabic.
I also picked up several handouts. Among the papers in the package I was also given upon arrival were suggested sources of information written by Prof. John Esposito of Georgetown University and Karen Armstrong, both of whom write glowing accounts of Islam.
During the tour, the Lebanese lady showed us drawings on the wall that depicted Damascus and Amman. She pointed out a Christian church in the Jordanian drawing and explained that for centuries, Muslims, Jews and Christians had lived in peace. She stated that lately there was conflict due to political factors. She added that those stirring the conflict and doing terrible things in the name of Islam were using religion to incite the people (I am paraphrasing.) I mentioned the decades old religious conflict in Lebanon (her country). To that she expounded that it was political factions using religion as an excuse. A young Muslim lady in our group began commenting and said something to the effect that many people who have personal issues or failures use religion as an excuse to stir conflict. (Again I am paraphrasing.)
Going into the meeting room, our group was given an Islam 101, as it was entitled, presentation on power point by the head imam, Yassir Fasaga, who was born in Eritrea. This was nothing I had not previously seen. It gave a basic explanation of Islam, the acceptance of prior prophets, the miracle birth of Jesus, the veneration of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the varied ethnicity of Muslims etc. It also addressed certain Islamic beliefs about abortion, euthanasia, suicide etc, all of which Islam opposes. Fasaga did mention that the prohibitions against abortion did have exemptions for incest and rape. One of the points on the screen was jihad. As to that Fasaga explained that jihad commonly meant striving to be a better person and better Muslim. He did add that there was an element when it came to a "just war" and fighting against injustice. One of the people sitting in our group was a local Mormon minister named Tom, who apparently comes every year for Open Mosque Day. He was apparently good friends with Imam Fasaga.
At one point, I raised my hand to ask a question since I had to leave for an appointment. I told imam Fasaga that I had a problem whenever I tried to read the Koran since there were conflicting passages, for example, the passage about "killing one person is tantamount to killing all of humanity" (Sura 5 verse 32) , and the verse that says "smite the pagans wherever you find them" (Sura 2 verses 191-193). I asked how to reconcile conflicting passages, how the Islamic scholars had reconciled them, and whether it mattered as to when in time each passage was revealed. Though I did not mention it, I was referring to the principle of abrogation, which means that in case of conflict, that revealed later in times abrogates that revealed earlier.
Fasaga explained that there was no contradiction, but that the latter verse was revealed during a time when Muslims were under attack and that it was permissible to fight against those who were trying to make war against you. (I am paraphrasing.) He made no mention of abrogation or other Islamic scholars.
In the below link from Religion of Peace (anti-Islamic site), there is a different interpretation of that verse. It maintains that at that point in time, Mohammad and his followers were in Medina and that their war was offensive in nature, not defensive.
At that point, I had to leave for a prior commitment.
To sum up, what I heard was what I had heard many times before. It was the same talking points designed to put a happy face on Islam. It is part of a massive and national public relations effort which I consider dishonest.