Girl Scouts Maryan Cattaneo and Hidayah Jaka welcomed members and guests to an Open Houses of Faith event at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) Center in Sterling, Tuesday, March 21. The two girls stood behind a table filled with boxes of cookies and a sign-in sheet.
"This is a way for people to learn more about religion," Jaka said.
Open Houses of Faith, coordinated by Girl Scout volunteers, is an educational program, which began in February to educate the Washington, D.C.,-metropolitan area communities about different faiths and religions practiced here.
ADAMS CENTER executive director Imam Mohamed Magid welcomed guests to the interfaith program.
Religious and nonreligious members of the community packed into the auditorium to listen to speakers. Women drew flowers on children’s hands with henna, a temporary ink. ADAMS Center children danced and sang traditional songs.
Magid emphasized the importance of education and understanding of different cultures and religions.
"By knowing one another, we can reverse the stereotypes," Magid said.
The ADAMS Center is a diverse population.
"You can see the world in this room," he said. "We believe in building bridges and connecting with people."
DICK AND EMILY Bowling stood by a table filled with informational pamphlets and books on religion. The couple live down the road from the ADAMS Center. The Bowling’s Muslim neighbors invited them to the ADAMS Center to learn more about their religion and tour the mosque.
"Our neighbors came over this weekend to invite us," Emily Bowling said. "We pass by it everyday in traffic so we thought we’d come over and see what it is all about."
Northern Virginia Community College professor Laura Shulman, a religious studies professor, brought her Religions is America class to the event.
"We usually meet on Tuesday nights," Shulman said. "I decided to have class down here to learn something about Islam and Muslims in America firsthand."
ADAMS CENTER president Rizwan Jaka has led his community for four years.
On Tuesday night, Jaka talked about the center’s mission "to increase the peace and help build friendships."
The ADAMS Center is one of the largest Muslim mosques in the Washington, D.C.,-metro area and in the United States, serving more than 5,000 families in a 10-mile radius. The ADAMS Center has seven branches in Sterling, Ashburn, Fairfax, Leesburg, Reston, South Riding and Tysons Corner.
Magid said the ADAMS Center is made up of a diverse population of "black, white, Sudanese, etc."
"Let’s get together for the sake of God, the sake of peace and the sake of each other," he said.