In Tough Times, Seattle Mosque Gets Added Boost from Mayor’s Speech
By Daniel Beekman
HishamFarajallah wasn’t surprised when staff from Mayor Ed Murray’s office asked about the possibility of the mayor delivering his annual State of the City address Tuesday at the North Seattle mosque where Farajallah has prayed for many years.
Murray’s move made sense to the Idris Mosque trustee and spokesman because the 36-year-old house of worship on Northeast Northgate Way has received a steady stream of letters, cards and flowers from Seattle residents of all faiths since Nov. 8.
That’s when Donald Trump, who had called for a registry of Muslims in the United States and for barring Muslims from entering the country, was elected president.
Some messages from well-wishers are fixed to a chain-link fence skirting the mosque, along with bouquets, while others are displayed on the walls of the prayer hall.
They say things like, “We love and support you,” and “Freedom of religion.” There are crayon drawings by children of Muslim and non-Muslims kids arm in arm.
“We thought it was going to stop at some point,” said Farajallah, a Boeing engineer. “But the letters keep coming, almost daily.”
The mosque spokesman says he sees Murray’s decision to speak at Idris Mosque in that context: The mayor is following the lead of his constituents.
“He represents the people of Seattle, and this is what the people of Seattle are doing,” Farajallah said. “He’s doing exactly what they’re doing.”
Seattle-area Muslims are experiencing “tough times,” Farajallah said.
He said the adults he talks to are less concerned with specific Trump-administration policies than with politicians stirring prejudice among regular Americans and government workers.
“We believe in the Constitution. We have faith in the Constitution. As long as the Constitution is respected, there should be no worries. This is a cornerstone in any discussion we have at the mosque,” Farajallah said.
“However, you cannot teach this to five-year-old kids. Families have said their kids had nightmares after the election, maybe due to what they heard at school or somewhere.”
Muslims have told Farajallah they won’t visit the countries from which Trump is trying to ban entries by noncitizens, despite having been born in the US themselves.
“One told me (he wouldn’t go) because of his name, the other because of the way he looks. They said, ‘We know the Constitution, but it’s not worth the intimidation we might get from employees at the border,’ ”Farajallah said.
Not everyone in Seattle is happy about Murray giving an important speech in a mosque.
Some have objected to the city conducting business there, raising concerns about the separation of religion and state.
When Murray initially announced the plan, he and City Council President Bruce Harrell said there would be a special meeting of the council.
Seattle’s mayors usually — but not always — deliver their State of the City addresses during meetings of the council in the council’s chambers at City Hall.
Murray and Harrell revised the plan Friday, saying the event would be a special presentation rather than an official meeting.
Harrell is still encouraging all council members to attend, and the 9:30 a.m. event will still be open to the public, with guests advised to show up early.
“It was decided the address would be given during a special presentation given no other council business will be conducted,” Murray spokesman Benton Strong said.
Live video of the speech will be shown at Northgate Community Center, at City Hall, on the Seattle Channel and on the mayor’s Facebook page, Strong said.
Farajallah said Idris Mosque has for years sought to improve relations between Muslims and non-Muslims in the area by adopting a position of openness.
The mosque holds a community potluck on the third Sunday of every month and does charity work for homeless people and The Children’s Society every three months.
Farajallah said the population that prays at Idris Mosque is more diverse than any other in the state. No one person speaks for the mosque, nor for the religion, he said.
“I have people from China, people from Japan, people from Russia, people from all over Europe, people from Africa,” he said. “Part of the faith is to not judge others.”
Idris Mosque also made headlines after 9/11.
Two days after the terrorist attacks, a Snohomish man threatened worshippers with gasoline and a gun. For several weeks, volunteers of various religions stood guard around the mosque.
Farajallah said there are similarities between the country’s mood then and now. But he said the mosque and its neighbors have grown closer.
“People are more educated about the faith,” he said. “The climate might be similar but the people are different, in the sense that a lot of people know more.” – The Seattle Times