Hampshire Mosque participates in ‘Open Mosque Day’

  • Agawam residents Meaghan, Avery and Emery Ellis, along with Chloe Rosario of Westfield, second from right, read information about Islam at the Open Mosque Day event at Hampshire Mosque in Hadley on Sunday. FOR THE GAZETTE/HENRY AMISTADI 

  • Amherst resident Carol Lewis looks at informational posters about Muslim beliefs on display during the Open Mosque Day event at Hampshire Mosque in Hadley on Sunday. FOR THE GAZETTE/HENRY AMISTADI 

  • Naz Mohamed, board clerk of Hampshire Mosque, speaks to visitors at the Open Mosque Day event on Sunday at Hampshire Mosque in Hadley. FOR THE GAZETTE/HENRY AMISTADI 

  • Chloe Rosario of Westfield, along with Agawam residents Peter Ellis and Emery, read from copies of the Quran provided during the Open Mosque Day event at the Hampshire Mosque in Hadley on Sunday. FOR THE GAZETTE/HENRY AMISTADI 

  • Peter and Meaghan Ellis of Agawam speaking with Naz Mohamed, Hampshire Mosque board clerk, during the Open Mosque Day event at the Hampshire Mosque in Hadley on Sunday. FOR THE GAZETTE/HENRY AMISTADI 

  • Musa Simon, Hampshire Mosque board member, speaking to visitors at the Open Mosque Day event on Sunday at Hampshire Mosque in Hadley. FOR THE GAZETTE/HENRY AMISTADI 

Staff Writer
Published: 4/28/2019 8:16:22 PM

HADLEY — The smells of spinach-and-cheese-stuffed pastries and vegetable fritters filled one corner of the Hampshire Mosque on Sunday.

A large crowd was on hand to eat that food, though mostly the visitors were socializing, meeting new friends or greeting neighbors. Mohammed Abdelaal, a board member at the mosque, said the atmosphere reminded him of a passage in the Quran: God “created you into nations and tribes that you may know one another.”

“That should be the essence of religion,” said Abdelaal.

That was the sentiment that filled the Hampshire Mosque, which on Sunday was one of 18 mosques, including the Islamic Society of Western Massachusetts in West Springfield, to take part in “Open Mosque Day” across the state. A tradition that started in the United Kingdom as “Visit My Mosque” day in 2015, the initiative is meant as a religious and cultural exchange in which anyone from outside the mosque’s community is invited to learn about their Muslim neighbors.

Sunday marked the first Open Mosque Day to be held at the Hampshire Mosque, which just finished its first year at its home on Russell Street in Hadley. The congregants of Hampshire Mosque, established in 2004, previously met in rented space in downtown Amherst and at Jones Library until recently getting their own space.

“We’re still learning how … to own a place,” said Naz Mohamed, the clerk of the mosque’s board, with a smile. “It is a different ballpark of maintenance and responsibility.”

But the new space is worth the work, she added. And on Sunday, it was the perfect place to host dozens of visitors, who mingled with the mosque’s diverse group of congregants.

“We represent a lot of countries that are Muslim and non-Muslim,” Mohamed said. Many of those people — as many as 60 percent, she estimated — come from the Five Colleges community and are temporary residents of the area. The mosque gives them a worship space of their own.

Visitors to the event came from across the region, including from other faith communities. For those new to the mosque, it was a chance to learn about the new space or about a different religion.

“The news is no way to learn about Islam,” said Carol Lewis of Amherst, who was perusing the informational posters hung up around the space.

Meaghan Ellis was with her kids at the literature table, where there were copies of the Quran and pamphlets on topics ranging from worship rituals to human rights.

“We’re educating ourselves,” she said.

Ellis, of Agawam, had learned about the open house after someone posted about it on her home-school network’s Facebook page. It was her and her children’s first time visiting a mosque.

“I think it’s really cool and interesting,” said her 12-year-old son, Avery.

The event came amid an uptick in attacks against places of worship, the latest of which occurred Saturday when a gunman killed one and injured three at the Chabad of Poway synagogue outside of San Diego.

Referencing recent headlines, mosque board member Musa Simon said the Sunday gathering provided a time for people to come together across differences “and just be neighbors, and hang out and have fun.”

“We have to not live in fear,” said Mohamed, who is also a member of the Interfaith Opportunities Network, which aims to foster connections and understanding between faith communities. “Hopefully, good overtakes evil.”

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.


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