AUSTIN (KXAN) — In the year since the Afghanistan pullout, Refugee Services of Texas anticipates more than 1,000 Afghans have or will resettle in the Austin area. As more Afghans acclimate the Central Texas community, an Austin mosque is looking to welcome them with open arms, while educating members of the public about Islam and Muslim culture.
On Wednesday, the North Austin Muslim Community Center is launching Islam 101, a series of weekly classes to help share elements of Muslim culture with Austin community members. Islam Mossaad serves as the imam, or the mosque’s prayer leader, at NAMCC and said the program aims to better connect Muslim and non-Muslim Austinites through shared understandings of Islamic culture.
The classes will run on Wednesdays through Nov. 16 from 7-8:30 p.m. They’ll cover the basic components of the religion, as well as misconceptions of the religion, such as violence or treatment of women.
“We want to demystify and also inform, and go a little bit deeper and see the level of complexity of some of these issues,” Mossaad said. “You want to actually have an engaged discussion. So when you come to the mosque, we want you to ask the hard questions.”
In recent years, Mossaad said increased polarizations have reflected in actions targeting Austin’s Muslim population. Last fall, hate messaging and a bloodied pig’s head mask were left outside an Austin mosque on the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
He said these sentiments come from a lack of understanding of Islam and its practitioners. These classes aren’t aimed at converting residents, but he said they hope they can leave with greater empathy and appreciation for Muslim community members.
“Hopefully [people gain] a new insight, a new awareness and appreciation,” Mossaad said. “If they had something that was inside them, that had a misgiving toward Islam, that those misgivings are taken away from their hearts.”
More information on NAMCC and these classes is available online.