Opening Doors of Understanding
By Keith Sharon

The falafel, tabouli, hummus and hersay (Arabic grain sweet bread) sat on the long table next to the Chips Ahoy cookies and the Ruffles potato chips.
Everything mixed together is how local Muslims set up their food table and their Sunday afternoon.
"I watch people walk in very tense," said Fawaz Albaroudi of Orange. "And when I shake their hand and they see that I speak English, I can see them relax. Once they come in, they don't want to leave."
The Islamic Institute of Orange County (IIOC) held an open house Sunday – an annual event started after the tragedies of Sept. 11, 2001 – drawing more than 300 people. Sunday's theme, "Islam Around the World," highlighted cultural facts in several countries without mentioning wars and terror that some have linked – the event's organizers say incorrectly – to their religion.
"We learned we needed to open our doors more," said the Institute's Acting Director Samer Soubra of Garden Grove. "Unfortunately, Sept. 11 taught us that."
The institute's members say they don't feel like a culture under siege, although they frequently answer questions about violence. They realize that contributing money and time to mosques and Muslim organizations could raise suspicion. They know that the fifth anniversary of Sept. 11 is less than a month away, and anti-Muslim sentiments may rise... (Courtesy The Orange County Register)

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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