Saturday, June 23, 2012

Call to Prayer, Call for Respect

A muezzin at the neighborhood mosque has begun singing the call to prayer which is quite lovely broadcast above the din of the traffic at Roxbury Crossing. I just happened to hear it when leaving the Reggie Lewis Center one Saturday and another time on a Friday when playing hookie from work.

The call doesn't bother me - it adds beauty and cultural interest to the area - but the lack of notice about it does. During construction and when they first opened, the cultural center and mosque was the neighborhood's best friend forever. There was nothing they wouldn't do for us and little they wouldn't promise. They were going to invite us to prayer meetings - interdenominational and otherwise. They would have a room open and available to the community for community meetings. They were planning all kinds of activities (for children, for women, for families) in which they would include the neighborhood. Traffic wouldn't be a problem because, since they're just a block away from the Roxbury Crossing T stop, they'd strongly encourage use of public transport.

Like some other institutions in the neighborhood, once they got what they wanted, the physical neighborhood to which they belong ceased to exist for them. Traffic is exacerbated and parking for local residents not-existent as believers flock to the area for major services. The room available for community meetings has a substantial price tag, $200(!) last time we checked, hardly affordable for small volunteer based, no-income community groups. This neighborhood has a very robust listserv, which includes mosque members, but I've seen no invitations to or even announcements about prayer groups - interdenominational or otherwise - or mosque activities or events. And for those of us on the unplugged side of the digital divide, there have been no fliers posted in the neighborhood to let families know about the treasure trove of children's activities offered at the center.

Though some of us are curious about Islamic culture we may be shy and hesitant to intrude on unfamiliar cultural ground so invitations to visit are necessary.  One example of a welcoming neighborhood institution was St. Margaret's Convent. It not only made a meeting room available for free to the community, but also held free community meetings regularly in one of the public spaces in the convent and members of the convent participated actively in neighborhood affairs. That the Islamic center is also a religious institution makes the lapse in communication and lack of follow through on promises even more upsetting. I understand that "thou shalt not take advantage of or ignore your neighborhood" is not one of the Five Pillars but Zakat, or charity, is. We don't want a portion of their income - we'd just like them to honor their word and make a meeting room available to us for free and let us know what's going on - invite us to events,  let us know about opportunities.  Be the good neighbor they told us they would be.

Salaam alaikum.

Update, 19 July 2012
Though St. Margaret's Convent supplied a meeting room (and tea and cookies) for free for community meetings, the now defunct Fort Hill Civic Association donated $500. annually to the sisters' mission in Haiti, according to a former FHCA co-chair.