Islamic Society open house at new Pelican mosque had much in common with any faith gathering in the area

Folks gathered at the new Pelican Rapids Islamic Society open house to learn more about their Muslim neighbors in the former bowling alley turned mosque Nov. 19.

By Nicole WK

After more than five years of work and a few bureaucratic bumps in the road, the Islamic Society of Pelican Rapids is officially open. 

The group hosted an open house event Nov. 19 at its new center, where they’ve remodeled the old Pelican bowling alley into a community center and mosque. 

Ahmer Qarni, a board member of the Islamic Society of Fargo-Moorhead, spoke to visitors, highlighting the many things they have in common with each other.
Islamic leader Mukhtar Mohamed answered questions about the Muslim religion.

Common Ground

“The Quran says to connect on things we have in common,” said Ahmer Qarni, a board member of the Islamic Society of Fargo-Moorhead, during his presentation at the event. 

It’s easy to notice the differences between the cultures and beliefs of predominantly Christian Pelican natives and the more recent Muslim additions to the community. Still, it wasn’t hard to see how much they have in common. 

Like any other event hosted by a religious institution in town, there was an abundance of delicious food, friendly conversation, and a spirit of goodwill and generosity that could not be denied. 

Qarni spoke of when his family moved to Fargo in 1999. His sons saw a figure of the Virgin Mary and became excited, thinking her a Muslim, as her clothing is similar to what traditional Muslim women wear. 

Islamic women pray in a separate room from the men, pictured above. The direction of the carpet helps to show the direction to face while praying, as Muslims traditionally pray facing toward Mecca.
The men’s section, left, is notably larger. Shoes are left at the doorway before entering these parts of the mosque.

Common Frustrations

Another notable commonality is the frustration with those claiming to do things in the name of their religion while not following the rules of the faith. 

“Whoever kills an innocent human being, it shall be as if he has killed all mankind, and whoever saves the life of one, it shall be as if he saved the life of all mankind,” Qarni quoted as he shared his frustration with the way the word “jihad” has been portrayed in mainstream media. 

“Jihad is struggle,” he explained. That struggle can be anything from striving to do good deeds to joining the military. It does not, however, condone terroristic acts. In fact, according to the Quran, Muslims are instructed not to unnecessarily harm even plants and animals.

One can’t help but notice the way his frustration mirrors that of many Christians when they speak of groups such as the Westborough Baptist Church protesting at funerals of gay soldiers or those who bomb abortion clinics in the name of their religion. 

Peyvin Selman, left, with Nora Selman and Hanna Mujib, provided traditional henna decorations to guests at the event.

JoAnn Frazier, above, and Willow Kramer, above right, showing off the henna art they received at the Pelican Rapids Islamic Society’s open house event.

Ethnic Somali food, art shared

While an abundance of delicious food is another commonality the Islamic center shares with area churches, the types of food were notably different. A range of ethnic Somali dishes and drinks were available to visitors who piled their plates with samosas, various types of meat, vegetable dishes, breads, and fruits. 

Event-goers had the opportunity to receive traditional henna art painted on their hands and access to myriad free books and pamphlets with more information about the Islamic religion and culture. 

Many informational books and pamphlets were available for those with a desire to learn more about the Islamic religion.