Saturday, September 10, 2011

eighty-ninth visit: Sept 9th 2011 Islam

1:30pm friday
Al-Masjid Al-Awwal
1911 Wylie Ave, Pittsburgh PA 15219
crawford-roberts (near hill district)

After calls and an email with no avail last week, I stop by to ask about attending. On the front steps, I run into a staff-member. He welcomes me to join them any Friday, and points out the women's entrance.
This visit to the first Muslim Mosque established in Pittsburgh (1932) is timed intentionally just before the tenth anniversary of 9/11 (more here, 2nd paragraph).

Something I did not mention last week: For my visit on October 1, 2010, I was nervous. The Islam faith is probably that with which I am least familiar, as far as attending services, and it is conducted in a language with which I am also completely unfamiliar. I am not nervous at all during my second mosque visit. And neither at the start of this visit. It's kind of uncanny to feel this difference.

As you know, I sew between (in response to) each visit, making an addition of fabric or embroidery to my dress.
Just before my first visit to a Muslim mosque (Oct 1, 2010), I added sleeves to my dress, to avoid inappropriateness of attire. Adding more than that seemed too much, unbalanced and not right for the perimeters of this project, so I needed to temporarily wear a longer skirt under my dress, and a larger headscarf to that service. By the time of my second mosque visit, a week ago, I only needed to add a longer skirt. Before my third time (today), I have finally achieved complete mosque-worthy apparel, length and all. Except that I find out after this visit, that as far as clothing goes, white is set aside for males. In more conservative, traditional Muslim communities, it is considered improper for a woman to wear white. At my two previous gathering-visits to mosques, I remember some women were wearing very light colors. And last week I was not the only one in white. But here such is not the case, as all the women are in black.

Compared to last week's, the message today is stepped up in intensity.
The following two paragraphs document the Imam's words, with very little, if any, paraphrasing:
The terrorist attack of 9/11 is not permissible under the teachings of Islam, and thus Islam frees itself from these actions. Islam does not allow the assassination of innocent people, whether done by Muslims or non-Muslims. We have to speak the truth about these affairs without compromising out faith. Without apology for our faith, because this is not an action that happened under the construct of our faith. We must combat the ideological basis that the terrorists were using wrongly in the name of Islam.

The Imam reads from a flier announcing an interfaith vigil to be held on September 11th at the Islamic Center of Pgh (my 7th visit). He states that one of the names of the establishments mentioned on the sponsor list, though similar to the name of this mosque, is not to be confused with this congregation. Attending this interfaith vigil, [implying] interfaith prayer, is a compromise of faith. Though we feel nothing but sorrow and sympathy for those lives lost and those affected by the terrorist attack, it is forbidden to pray for non-Muslims; thus it would be a compromise of our faith to support this interfaith vigil.

A full-congregation prayer, and the service ends.

One woman approaches and greets me. Another speaks kindly to me on my way out.

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