Islamic Center spreads tolerance
Some of the strife in Islam results from extremist hardliners exacerbating sectarian divisions between Sunni and Shia that stretch back to the last Islamic civil war. One of the paths towards Islamic reformation and an end to strife that sometimes pits states against each other is for this sectarian rift to be healed.
In the Islamic Center of Lawrence, a silent revolution of religious tolerance is brewing. The prayer hall has rival sects, Shiites and Sunnis, praying together, promoting a high degree intrareligious faith.
Worshippers like Hossein Gerami are among many overcoming the centuries of rivalry through active participation. Shiite and Sunni sects rarely pray together.
“I believe that Islam is one religion. As a Shia, I have no problem in mixing or praying with our Sunni brothers,” Gerami said. Gerami is from Iran and belongs to the minority Shiite community, sometimes referred to as Shia.
Officials and members of the Islamic Center admit that slowly the prayer hall is becoming a symbol of religious tolerance. Discrimination on the basis of community is ignored in favor of silence. Bandar Almatari, education secretary of the Center, said that there is no mosque in Lawrence and that the Islamic Center is the only place for Muslims to worship.