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A Coming of Age: The Noor Islamic Cultural Center in Columbus, Ohio
I have been travelling across the world since I was a year old and I have seen many things, including many Mosques across America, Europe, and Asia. Recently I was travelling in my home town of Dublin, Ohio in the area around the Noor Islamic Cultural Center and found the area to be extraordinarily beautiful and serene. The landscape is so peaceful in the area that you feel that you have stepped into some sort of Chronicles of Narnia Closet and stepped out into Narnia. (There are many C.S. Lewis like characters involved in our local community that remind me of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.)
Before I decided to move to Ohio, I had lived in West Virginia, Utah, California, Texas, and other places. However, what intrigued me about Columbus, Ohio was an issue of the Islamic Horizons magazine published by the Islamic Society of North America. This specific issue had a picture of the Noor Islamic Cultural Center on it's front cover with a complete expose of NICC and the Columbus Muslim community. Reading through the article and seeing the beautiful edifice called simply "The Noor Mosque", I wanted to find out more. Time went by and I got busy with my work and family, however I remembered the beautiful community pictures I had seen and read about the great work that was being done by the moderate and all inclusive Noor Islamic Cultural Center. When I think of all inclusive, I think of Sunni, Shia, and Sufi Muslims praying side by side while our Jewish and Christian neighbors come for a visit. Being all inclusive and reaching out to others in an inter-faith and intra-faith manner is what being a Muslim is all about. (contrary to popular right wing demand...exclusivity and extremism are akin to pagans and athiests and not representative of Islam or Muslims.) Coincidentally, one time when I walked in I witnessed a couple brothers praying side by side, one with arms folded and the other straight down (The Sunni Malekis and Shia Jafaris pray with their arms down) and thought to myself, what a wonderful Mosque! Finally, no more sectarianism, intolerance, and exclusivity.
Here are the Mission & Objectives of NICC:
Empower and enable the local Muslims, of all backgrounds to reach their true and full potential and play an active positive role in building stable, cohesive and successful community in central Ohio and in the United States of America.
Celebrate the cultural heritage of the local Muslim community in Central Ohio and to create a sense of ownership and belonging which cultivates understanding, harmony, and mutual respect. Such is accomplished by facilitating and providing a wide range of services for our diverse community under one roof.
Aims and Objectives
To promote the principles of Islam based on the Holy Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) as understood by main-stream Muslims.
To develop operate and/or promote the development/operation of Islamic cultural institutions including but not limited to, Schools, Relief organizations, Universities, Hospitals, Broadcast Stations, Community Centers, Cultural Centers, museums, Mosques, Cemeteries, and other institutions that serve the Muslim community in the United States.
To promote all forms of education about the Islamic culture and the Islamic way of life.
To facilitate humanitarian relief efforts for people of all faiths.
To provide Islamic services and counseling to the needy and to the disadvantaged individuals.
To promote unity among Muslims.
To foster a better understanding among Muslims, other Muslim Institutions and communities of other faiths.
To serve the needs of all the sectors of the Muslim community (adults, youth, men, and women).
To solicit donations for, and to employ the funds of the donors to implement and the organization’s mission and aims/objectives.
To adopt and execute such activities as may be lawful in order to accomplish the said purposes of AIW.
Then came the chance to see this beautiful Mosque in person! I saw an opening for the Executive Director of CAIR Columbus and took the opportunity. Before I knew it, I was hired as the Executive Director for CAIR Columbus (part of CAIR Ohio). On one of my first visits, I was taken to the Noor Islamic Cultural Center and was amazed at the American style of the Mosques exterior and interior. The tile floors and the flat screen TV in the lobby was breathtaking. For an instant I felt that I was in the fantasy world where American Muslims are accepted as a mainstream community akin to Jews and Christians...finally, we have the hybrid of American Culture and Islam in an American Muslim institution. I think that for many indigenous Muslims this Mosque represents a coming of age of the American Muslim community, however I am not sure what all the immigrant community thinks, but I for one instantly saw opportunity for outreach, inter-faith, and intra-faith work in Columbus.
I hope that NICC will survive as one of the most beautiful and moderate Mosques here in Columbus, Ohio. It would be sad to see it go in the direction of some Mosques where you have misguided individuals who profess so called puritan views or interpretations of what Islam is and how Muslims should act. It is a source of pride that there have been no radicals coming out if this institution. Interfering with the private faith of Muslim individuals is not Islamic and should not be the goal of any Muslim or Muslim Institution.
During my time in Ohio, I have witnessed the outreach work that has been done by NICC and was impressed to see it's director all over town speaking at arrangements and creating positive relationships with people of all faiths in the area. We need more organizations that are eager and willing to become part of the American fabric and produce positive American Citizens who happen to be Muslim.