Sunday, September 11, 2011

Mosque repellent

The best laid plans of mice and infidels...

This morning was an auspicious beginning to what I'm still fervently hoping will be a month devoted to attending worship services of other faiths. My plan for this weekend was to participate in a Muslim call to prayer, something Muslims must do five times each day, whether alone or in groups. It was a simple enough plan: Locate a mosque in or around Hollywood and visit it. A quick Google search informed me that Google is far from perfect, and my task would be more daunting than I'd suspected.
As you can see, the search results included a church (been there, done that), Buddhist temple, mortuary, synagogue, and Kabbalah center (way to go, Google). Suffice it to say, the sixth result looked the most promising, and its website contained messages about the last days of this year's Ramadan. I thought it best to email in advance when it comes to visiting places of other faiths. Even though I have been to Muslim calls to prayer before, it was overseas and the conditions were different. I sent an email earlier this week and never heard back from them. Not a good sign. But, frankly, there were no other options in the search results.

This morning I took a drive to North Hollywood and found a choice parking place near as nondescript a building as I've ever seen. There was no signage to indicate what it was, and the door was closed and locked behind a set of cast iron bars. The neighborhood seemed nice and friendly, but this particular address was clearly not open for business or pleasure. I knocked all the same; no answer. Nothing of the building's interior is visible from its exterior. No signs of life.
Undaunted I returned to my trusty Google iPhone app and searched for mosques in the Burbank area. Again, the search results were downright goofy, but they did include an Islamic center in Glendale. Not wanting to arrive at another locked door, I clicked on its website so I could determine exactly when their calls to prayer would take place. The website is, as you can see, less than clear.
So I have sent another email and am awaiting a response. My hope is to attend the Asr prayer in the late afternoon and report back; we shall see what happens.

The most recent official statistics (2007) indicate 0.7% of the US population is Muslim. nevertheless, I assumed there would be easier access to a nearby mosque. After all only 1.7% of the US claim to be Jewish, but there do not appear to be any issues locating a synagogue in the area (in fact, they pop up in search results for mosques).

There are obvious reasons for selecting a mosque on this day, and it doesn't need to be dwelt upon. It frankly doesn't matter where I was ten years ago on this date, though two months after that I had begun the process of joining the Peace Corps, and six months after that I was living in a Muslim country in Central Asia.

Walking into the main mosque in the city of Pavlodar, Kazakhstan, there was certainly a sense of awe and wonder, as it was unlike any church I'd ever seen. It was also unlike a standard mosque in its architectural style. The locals had given it the unofficial nickname "Darth Vader's summer home," but we silly Americans thought the exterior closely resembled a badminton shuttlecock/birdie.
Today while people are arguing over who didn't get invited to what memorial, I thought I'd do what I normally do: Demonstrate in my own way that we are all connected, even those who believe differently or not at all. It is still my hope to be able to attend a Muslim call to prayer today; if not today then perhaps later in the week. In any event, wherever you are and whatever you may be feeling on this day, please know that you are never alone.


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