'Islam doesn't have any geographic boundaries': Naperville cultural event shows Muslims' diversity

  • Rafay Saeed, 11, gives out stickers Saturday morning at the Afghanistan booth at the third annual Muslims Around the World event at the Islamic Center of Naperville. Children could gather stickers from each of the 28 countries represented for a "passport" as they learned about Muslim traditions around the globe.

      Rafay Saeed, 11, gives out stickers Saturday morning at the Afghanistan booth at the third annual Muslims Around the World event at the Islamic Center of Naperville. Children could gather stickers from each of the 28 countries represented for a "passport" as they learned about Muslim traditions around the globe. Marie Wilson | Staff Photographer

  • Aasiya Shah and Zohra Hussain, both 13, pour drinks at a booth Saturday at the Islamic Center of Naperville displaying facts about Muslims in Mexico. The country has roughly 12 mosques where Muslims worship, students at the Islamic Center's Al-Falah Academy weekend school found in their research for the third annual Muslims Around the World event.

      Aasiya Shah and Zohra Hussain, both 13, pour drinks at a booth Saturday at the Islamic Center of Naperville displaying facts about Muslims in Mexico. The country has roughly 12 mosques where Muslims worship, students at the Islamic Center's Al-Falah Academy weekend school found in their research for the third annual Muslims Around the World event. Marie Wilson | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 12/14/2019 5:18 PM

The religion of Islam came from one person in one place, as a Naperville Imam explained it during a cultural event Saturday, but diversity is a hallmark of the faith.

Since an angel visited the Prophet Muhammad in the holy land of Mecca and he started what now is the world's second-largest religion, Islam has left its followers to many of their own traditions, said Rizwan Ali, Imam of the Islamic Center of Naperville.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Islam is a set of principles and rules," Ali said. "Other than that, you have the flexibility to hang on to your culture, hang on to your way of life, hang on to your food."

And food? Well, "food brings people together," said Kashif Fakhruddin, principal of the Al-Falah Academy weekend school at the Islamic Center.

Food was a highlight of the third annual Muslims Around the World event hosted by students at the academy, who researched Muslim traditions in 28 countries and presented their findings -- along with snacks and treats -- at busy booths in the mosque's gym.

Several hundred people attended, including Democratic U.S. Reps. Bill Foster of the 11th District and Lauren Underwood of the 14th, state Sen. Laura Ellman of the 21st District, and Mike Raczak, school board president in Indian Prairie Unit District 204.

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All praised the importance of learning about ways of life in other places and valuing the differences among cultures and communities.

"Islam doesn't have any geographic boundaries. Islam doesn't have any racial boundaries. Those are all man-made," Ali said. "What matters is our hearts."

Booths set up by children and teens featured the populations of various countries where Muslims live and worship, as well as facts about the Muslim communities there, the geography and the government. Children got flag stickers from each country's booth to place on a passport of sorts as they visited various booths.

Countries included in the display were Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Japan, Jordan, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Pakistan, Palestine, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, the U.S., Uzbekistan and Yemen.

"It's great to see how Islam embraces diversity and peace," Ellman said.

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