Alia Ammar answered lots of questions about Islam at an open house Saturday at the Islamic Foundation North in Libertyville. Like, why do she and other Muslim women wear hijabs?
"As an Islamic feminist, what I focus on is my right to dress in whatever way I see appropriate. And the hijab I wear is the same one that the Virgin Mary was wearing. I don't see it as something that we need to grow out of, but something that helps me to grow," she said. "Muslim women are certainly not forced to wear the hijab, not in America."
Elaine Diamond, who said she is Jewish, said she loved chatting with Ammar. "It was very interesting," said Diamond, who came with a group of about 20 residents of Sedgebrook, a retirement community in Lincolnshire. "It strikes me the many similarities there are between the formal dresses of the Muslim and Jewish women, according to the old customs."
The goal of the open house, attended by at least 200 people, was to forge relationships with others in the community, said Islamic Foundation North President Vaseem Iftekhar.
About 250 families are members of the mosque; the Eid al-Adha holiday celebration earlier this month was held at the Libertyville Sports Complex and attended by about 2,500 people.
"This is a feeble, small attempt on our part to make sure that you feel that you can come here to learn about us, because we are part of America," Iftekhar said. "We are part of you and we are your neighbors."
Sabeel Ahmed, director of the Gain Peace project, addressed what he said are misconceptions about Islam. He pointed to a statement made by Donald Trump, the Republican presidential candidate, who in March said, "I think Islam hates us."
Islam exhorts people to take care of their neighbors' needs, he said.
"For me to be a complete believer, I have to know the neighbor and I have to make sure that at least the basic needs of the neighbors are being fulfilled. That's part of Islam," he said. "That doesn't seem like hating, right?"
Sara Knizhnik of Vernon Hills went to the event with her 11-year-old son Ethan and his best friend, 10-year-old Gwen Murray.
"I think the schools don't teach much about it (Islam)," Knizhnik said. "I brought them here to learn things that they probably aren't going to learn in other ways."
Maaz Haider, 11, of Long Grove, who attends the mosque with his family, said he was happy to see so many people at the open house.
"I think it's cool," he said," because if anyone sees us and they think we are terrorists or bad people, they can come and see us as we really are."