Denver Islamic Society hosts open house for community
Nelson Garcia, KUSA
November 21, 2015
DENVER – At the Denver Islamic Society, neighbors like Karen Jefferson are invited to come in and experience what Muslims are really like as opposed to what some people say on TV and social media.
“I came because of all the craziness that’s been going on. All of the people talking without really thinking about what they’re saying,” Jefferson said.
Jefferson says she’s driven by the mosque a few times and was curious about it. The Denver Islamic Society hosted its first open house Saturday afternoon.
“It’s our duty to reach out with our fellow neighbors and citizens and members of our community,” Imam ShemsAdeen Ben-Masaud said. “It’s part of our getting out and not allowing outside forces to dictate what is being said about Islam and Muslims.”
Jefferson and other visitors had the chance to ask questions about Islam traditions and customs while also learning about the similarities between Islam, Christianity, and Judaism.
“These are opportunities for us to show our faces as normal members of the community,” Imam Ben-Masaud said.
Jefferson says she wants to be part of the effort to change the way some people think about Islam in America.
“Came as a person willing to build bridges and to basically say I am intolerant of intolerance,” Jefferson said. “I really wanted to come here and be a friendly face and say not everybody that lives in Denver or Colorado or the United States is afraid of you.”
Imam Ben-Masaud told people to “grab a Muslim” to have a conversation and get to know one another. People shared stories, shared a meal, and shared an understanding that these Muslims have a reason to hate the terrorists, too.
“By far, the number, the largest number of casualties by ISIS and these other extremist groups have been Muslim casualties,” Imam Ben-Masaud said.
The Imam says this initial open house was planned before the attacks in Paris. But, he says considering the attacks this event was important. The Denver Islamic Society plans to hold an open house during every third Saturday of the month.
“This is really a happy and positive thing for us that we would see so that we would see so many people attend an open house and really be on the same page with us,” Imam Ben-Masaud said.
Jefferson says the open house is a good way for people to overcome their fears and drop their assumptions.
“I’m glad that they had the open house. I’m glad I was aware of it. I probably wouldn’t have sought it out on my own,” Jefferson said.
Denver Islamic Society in shock over Paris attacks
Ana Campbell, KUSA
November 21, 2015
KUSA – Joining scores of Muslim groups around the world issuing similar statements, the Denver Islamic Society said Saturday that it is “greatly saddened and horrified” by the terrorist attacks in Paris.
“Killing any life in Islam is strictly prohibited,” said Imam ShemsAdeen Ben-Masaud with the Denver Islamic Society. “Life is sacred, human life has a sanctity over it, so for us, it’s completely reprehensible.”
The terrorist organization known as ISIS, or Daesh, claimed responsibility for the attacks that as of Saturday afternoon had killed 129 people and had left 352 others in the hospital.
“As Muslims, we are greatly distressed and saddened over the loss of life and brutality that unfolded in Paris,” the Denver Islamic Society wrote on its website. “We believe, as stated in the Holy Quran, that whoever kills one life, it is as if they have killed all of humanity, and whoever saves one life, it is as if they have saved all of humanity.”
Ben-Masaud believe these are act are related to socio-economic and political issues and not religion.
“They can claim that its faith, or from God, but that doesn’t mean that it is,” said Ben-Masaud. “Our community is also affected. We are also victims of this attack, honestly, terrorism has no discrimination between a Muslim and a non-Muslim.”
The Denver Islamic Society is hosting an open house next Saturday. The event, which includes refreshments and tour of the Mosque, starts at 2 p.m. at the Denver Islamic Society located near I-25 and Evans in Denver.
“We’re going to be doing our best to continue to work with out interfaith partners to drive home that picture that we know to be our faith, not the picture that those who are doing acts in the name of Islam believe the faith to be. That’s not accurate.”
In its statement to the media, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the largest Muslim civil rights organization in the U.S., referenced the same passage in the Quran, adding that it stood with the people of France.
“I would like to let everyone know that we believe evil only triumphs when good people do nothing,” said the group’s representative. “Therefore we stand in solidarity with the French people and call on the Muslim community both in France and the United States to redouble their effort and vigilance in confronting extremism wherever they may find it.”
Citizens of Denver rally to show support for victims of Paris attacks
November 14, 2015
DENVER — Dozens of people rallied and marched in Civic Center Park in Denver on Saturday, to show solidarity and support for the victims of Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris.
Several Parisians who now live in Denver said the gathering brought comfort during a difficult time.
“It helps a lot because I feel sad and empty,” said Clemence Durand, who just recently moved to Denver as part of a study abroad program.”What happened there just doesn’t make sense.”
Durand and others, signs like “Pray for Paris” and symbols of peace said what words could not.
“It’s kind of hard to be here,” Durand said.
“There’s nothing you can do, you’re just worried about the people you know there. Hoping that they’re safe.”
“I have friends who had friends in the Bataclan, the concert hall, and unfortunately the people died,” said Omar Pierre Soubra. “It’s hard because you don’t know what to say to your friends, there’s nothing we can do from here aside from showing support.”
Not everyone who showed support in Denver had ties to France. Representatives from the Denver Islamic Society were on hand to show their solidarity.
“The terrorists that claimed responsibility for it do not represent who I am or who we are as Muslims,” said Nadeen Ibrahim. “It all comes down to the fact that we are all human beings and that we all need to stand by each other and that we all deserve dignity and respect and freedom.”
For most, expressing that freedom was what the rally was all about.
“We are not afraid, that’s part of it,” Soubra said. “It’s coming here to show that we can be outside in public, we can show our love to the Parisians and we’re not afraid.”
The Denver City and County Building was also lit up in the colors of France – red, white and blue – in a show of solidarity.
Courtesy: KDVR Fox31 Denver
50 MOSQUE MAN FALL TOUR 2015: 1. Denver, Colorado
I visited Masjid Al-Noor in Denver, Colorado Tuesday, April 21 of this year, 2015. I called the Adhan for Asr prayer. Imam ShemsAdeen Ben-Masaud, a young student of knowledge, newly returned from Jordan would be my host for the occasion. It was a very brief touch and go event as we needed to be in Cheyenne, Wyoming by the evening.
During that brief encounter, I was able to see his dynamic personality in action as he wore the teachings of his mentors on his sleeve, showing respect to the elder scholar on site and wielding rapport with the youth in the community. His personality bore a unique combination that I felt was positioned to make a deep and positive impact with all of those that surrounded him. I knew that I would want to come back for another visit to learn more in detail.
This is specifically why I chose this location as the testing grounds for my fall 2015, 50 Mosque Man Tour. I would visit between Thursday morning and Saturday morning. The following narrative is a summary of all that I encountered during my visit. This event was very special, because every single youth group and Muslim Student Association in the entire city of Denver, Colorado combined their efforts to produce this event. Led by a dynamic personality in Imam ShemsAdeen, the youth took to social media and positioned this visit as an opportunity to begin a collaboration amongst all of the various groups and catalyze a launch of a major platform.
I could not have asked for a better host, accommodation and reception. The community of Denver, Colorado is a must visit for any person looking to travel. From the airport, to the masjid and everything in between, this is a place full of good food, great people and wonderful sightseeing.
TAKING OFF FROM DETROIT
The flight was early (8:09am) and I knew I needed time to collect my thoughts. I entered the Delta Sky lounge, grabbed some edibles to get the juices flowing and stored some away for the flight. I was reppin IMAN Central with their “Refresh The Hood” Hoodie. Wanted to make sure that I made up for missing the 7:30am Chicago tour during ISNA. It’s been nearly 4 months since I carried my companion: “The Muaddhin Banner” and I knew I was out of touch. As I sipped on some apple juice and chewed on a bagel, I thought to myself: “I needed to get back to form, to operating procedure.” Needed to take a picture of every major and minor milestone along my journey. Needed to avoid every opportunity cost that I could. I kept telling myself that their is a story to tell here. Ten minutes to boarding time, I left the lounge and made my way to the gate. Upon arrival and amongst the crowd, a face looked familiar. Bernie Smilovich, Click on Detroit/Channel 4, Sports Director was on my flight. I cautiously approached him and inquired if he was in fact the television news celebrity. He pleasantly confirmed that he was. I pulled up a picture of my USA Today’s article and shared with him my story and why I was heading over to Denver, Colorado. He thought that it was pretty cool and so I asked him if I could take a picture with him and that became my first win of the trip. A chance for me to share a thought about my journey and in return, a brief collaboration of positivity was the result.
MEET AND GREET
I arrived in Denver on time (10:01am). Waiting for me was the young student of knowledge/Vice Imam of Masjid Al-Noor, Imam ShemsAdeen Ben-Masaud. He’d been waiting for me 30 minutes prior to arrival. We Grab my bags and headed for the hotel. We shared and egg sandwich that his wife made for both of us. First impressions are everything and generosity seemed to be the way of his people. We took some pictures at the airport and posted them so that our followers on social media knew that our story had begun. The young Imam had informed me that we had a packed schedule. There would be several meet and greets posted throughout my stay. We would need to be efficient with our time and make sure that our message was customized towards the right audience as we prepared for what was ahead.
I let him know that we needed to stop by the Apple Store to make sure that all of our technical needs are taking care of, so that I may seek council on matters of posting to social media and optimizing my visual presentation for the main event. After the meeting with the business consultants of the Apple team, we grabbed a quick bite to eat in the mall cafeteria. The whole time, Both of us were posting and hash tagging, making sure that everybody in the network was plugged in.
We reached the hotel. I dropped off my bags, changed my clothes, performed a fresh wudu, slung my banner over my shoulder and jumped in the car to the first location.
VISIT WITH THE KIDS
We arrived at Crescent view Academy right before the Dhuhr prayer. Upon arrival, I had an opportunity to see the local scholar giving instruction in way of the appropriate posture when praying. The Imam and I prayed in the back of a packed room of boys and girls dressed in uniform. After the prayers, we were both introduced buy the school administration and were given an opportunity to address the youth about my journey across the United States and the last sermon of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. The children were very curious. They had many questions. We tried to field as many questions as we could, being mindful that they had to go back to class. Possibly the best part of the visit may have been the opportunity to take pictures. First the boys would go and then the girls. Serious pictures, Silly ones and Muaddhin poses. The most interesting find for me during the visit to the school was the discovery that the man who would be my host, whose manners were most impressive, was a product of that school, as were other teachers and administrators that I met along the way. This to me was a prime example of return on investment. Whether we are talking about Muslim or non-Muslim communities, kids don’t always come back to give back. When that happens, it’s a very special thing for everybody.
MUSLIM STUDENTS ASSOCIATION
We reached campus around 3:30 PM to catch the tail end of the meeting. There we had an opportunity to meet some of the local university leadership. I had a chance to give an overview of what the expectations are and if they had any questions either about my historic journey or about the program that would be taking place the following evening. It wasn’t until we interacted with a few students that I became aware that the young Imam also happened to be the chaplain for the Muslim Students Association. We opened up the banner, took some pictures and headed to the next stop.
BREAKING IN THE COURT & HANGING WITH THE YOUTH
One of the requests that I made, was an opportunity to play some basketball with the youth. As a former player, I used to relish the opportunity to play any place, any time. That day was special. They had just cemented two poles, put fresh asphalt and paint down and so we would inaugurate that court and played the first official game there. We had just enough time to squeeze one full court game before it was time for the Maghrib prayers. As luck would have it, our team won on a game winning shot by one point and I was off to prepare to make the call to prayer. That 30 minutes, 15 minutes or 10 minutes before prayer is a very special time. It’s always interesting to take in the view of the people who are waiting for the time for prayer to come in. There is a calmness and a serenity about their demeanor. I made the call to prayer Madani style and the Imam led Maghrib. After that, he had arrange for me to sit down and impart some pearls of wisdom onto the local youth before the next prayer. So, I talked about being exceptional and making sure that intentions should be clear on any small or big endeavor. The youth listened and others joined in as well. It was an informal talk, But one that brought us close together. When the time to make the call to prayer came, I was pleasantly surprised to hear the beautiful voice of a young student from Saudi Arabia. It was his own melody that he used and it was a sweetness to the ear and to the heart. We prayed and then went out for a late dinner with a few select college students before I headed back to my hotel.
JUMUAH KHUTBAH (FRIDAY SERMON)
Friday morning, I was slated to give a short talk after the Fajr/Morning prayer, but taking inventory of what I had on my plate, I declined the offer to concentrate on my core presentation later that evening in preparation for the delivery of the Friday sermon. Around 12 PM I was pleasantly surprised to hear the recitation of the holy Qur’an outside of my room. I paused what I was doing and opened the door to find that the cleaning service were working on some other rooms and a middle aged woman had the recitation playing on her phone. I greeted her and asked her where she was from. She replied that she was from Algeria and I introduced myself as a guest to their community and also as the speaker for the Friday services. It was a gift to be able to see the devotion of the people of Denver, Colorado to the rights that the day of Friday. May God bless her work, Her family and her community I thought to myself. I received a text stating that my ride was there and so we proceeded towards the masjid. Upon arrival, the first service had just finished and was heavily packed. I had an opportunity to see people from all different ethnicities pouring out of the basement of the facilities. After everyone left I set up for my presentation, which would be championing the last sermon of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.
PREPPING FOR MY FIRST PRESENTATION
The question I find asking myself is: “How do you present hundreds of photo’s, over a months worth of video footage and countless tales of people and places that were encountered over a timeframe of 1-2hrs?” The art is not the presentation of quantity, but rather the ability to express the idea in a simplified and streamlined fashion. Laced into the fabric of my presentation would be Muslim American trivia and vocal samples of Adhan, Qur’anic recitation and Nasheed (Wasn’t even able to reach that far). My graphic design abilities played a big role in making sure that the presentation was high-quality. By the time that I was finished putting my keynote presentation together I had over 400 slides in the program. Even as Imam ShemsAdeen pick me up to take me to the venue, I still find myself adding more me to the presentation. This being the first time that we would run the program, you want to make sure that it goes as smoothly as possible and that you have represented the 50 communities visited doing the historical trip as best as possible.
THE MAIN EVENT
The presentation began promptly at 6:30 PM as planned. The room was packed with people representing all sorts of various demographics: Muslims, non-Muslims, elders, young people and a healthy mixture of various ethnicities. Approximately 5 slides per state were allocated and my biggest fear was that the presentation would be way too long. As I begin my speech, a surge of emotions took over. Everything started coming back to me about how difficult and enlightening the journey was. There were too many important tales to tell. How do I pick and choose which one gets more importance? Just like anything else, we began with the name of God and proceeded to tell the story. Time flew by so quickly and before we knew it, we were two and a half hours into the program. I saw people in the audience cry, take pictures and post. Others were eager to ask questions. For the first time since May, I was able to get the details of the trip out into the open. It was a blessing for me and those that were present. After the presentation, Many people expressed how inspired they were from the journey. It’s funny, You know what it meant to you and why you did what you did, but it is always others that will truly define the act itself. For some, it was a spiritual upliftment. For others, it was motivation to go out there and do something exceptional, not just for themselves, but for humanity. Some said that they now realize the importance of understanding people from other communities. All in all I was very satisfied that everybody walked away with something that they could use to better themselves and/or make the country, the world a better place. I had an autograph signing session with the audience. A sense of fulfillment was the net result.
The best part of the event happened to be the photo session that took place after the speech. People were energized and motivated. They wanted to become part of the narrative. Throughout the evening, people were hash tagging and posting on all of their social media networks. There were several groups being represented and each one wanted to get themselves on the map. We had a blast taking serious photos, funny candids and individual portraits. People needed to be themselves and the “Muaddhin banner” seemed to be a celebrity on its own. The #50MosqueMan hashtag was designed to connect all of the communities together that participated on this tour. The group in Denver, Colorado really took ownership of kicking off this tour the right way. What a vibrant group. Afterwards, they took me to grab a bite to eat and before I knew it, I was ready to head to the airport. So marked the first stop of the fall tour. Many thanks to the beautiful community of Denver and all of it’s youth. Next stop: KANSAY CITY!