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'More than welcome here': Two local mosques to host open houses for neighbors

Muslim men gather for prayer Friday at the recently opened Al-Huda Islamic Center in East Grand Forks. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald1 / 3
From left: Abdirisak Duale, president of the Al-Huda Islamic Center, Yassin Issaq and Hanad Abdi pose for a photo in Duale's office at the recently opened mosque in East Grand Forks. An open house at the center is set for 1 to 5 p.m. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald2 / 3
Abdirisak Duale, president of the Al-Huda Islamic, a recently-opened mosque in East Grand Forks, leads prayers at the mosque Friday afternoon. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald3 / 3

Why do muslim women wear hijabs? Why don't muslims eat pork? What is jihad?

This weekend, two recently opened mosques in East Grand Forks will give locals a chance to ask these and any other questions they might have about Islam.

The East Grand Forks Islamic Center on 1500 5th Avenue NE will hold a "tea and tour" event at 2 p.m. today, and the Al-Huda Islamic Center on 1401 Central Ave NW will host an open house from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Leaders at both centers say they welcome frank discussions and questions about Islam and Somali culture.

"There are no right or wrong questions," said Deka Ali, who works as a bilingual coordinator with East Grand Forks Public Schools and also helps out at Al-Huda. "Whether you're muslim or non-muslim, you're more than welcome here."

Three years ago, Ali moved to Grand Forks from St. Paul, where she grew up. Sipping Somali tea in Al-Huda's office Thursday afternoon, Ali said she was eager to share her culture with the community.

Al-Huda first opened its doors in November 2018, while the East Grand Forks Islamic Center began operations at the site of the erstwhile Liberty Lanes about five months ago.

Attendees at the events also will get a chance to sample Somali tea and snacks. In addition, Al-Huda will bring in Islamic scholars and experts to help tackle neighbors' questions. That includes Abdirisak Duale, the mosque's president and chairman, and John Emery, executive director of the Minneapolis-based Islamic Resource Group.

"They're very excited to have an open house to share with the community," said Emery, a convert to Islam.

The event is aimed at helping clear up any misunderstandings about Islam, too, Emery said.

"If [people] are coming in good faith, we know we can have a dialogue and find some common ground," he added.

For residents interested in visiting the mosques, one word of advice: Bring lots of questions, but be prepared to take your shoes off. It's a sign of respect in muslim culture. (Feel free to ask about that, too, if you're so inclined.)

"Whatever question that they want to ask, they are welcome," said Ali Hassan, president of the East Grand Forks Islamic Center.

Dan Niepow

Niepow covers social and community issues for the Grand Forks Herald. Before joining the paper, he worked as a magazine writer and editor. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he currently resides over the river in East Grand Forks, Minn. To reach Niepow with story ideas, send him an email at dniepow@gfherald.com or call him at (701) 780-1110. Follow him on Twitter @dniep.

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