BERGENFIELD, N.J. — No anti-Muslim prejudice has touched the Muslim Cultural Center of Bergen County in Bergenfield, its leader said.
“After two-and-a-half years practicing our faith here, we have found this really is a friendly town,” said Imam Muhammad S. Tahir of Fair Lawn.
“We are protected fully. We’ve never seen any kind of vandalism or hate or bias.”
The East Johnson Avenue center, known as Masjid Al-Aisha , attracts a few dozen people during the midday prayers and sermon at 1 p.m. Fridays.
Those who come are mostly men who stop in on their lunch hour and then return to their jobs, Tahir said.
There are two themes at the Masjid Al-Aisha: peace and openness.
According to Tahir, peace is the soul of Islam.
“We make our children to know our values,” said Tahir, a 25-year American citizen who was born in Pakistan.
“We condemn (terrorist) activities and we teach our children that what they see and hear happening in another part of the world is not Islam.”
His sermon on Friday – delivered in English, as they all are – was not about promoting or preaching peace.
Because that, he said, does not work.
The way for peace to fill the world is for individuals to radiate it.
“People should feel your peace by your presence,” he said. “Then you don’t need to preach.”
The congregation, which has an attachment to Sufism, sometimes gathers for a monthly feast and Zikr, which means “the remembrance of God.”
The people sit and focus on their inner lives to build up spirituality, he explained.
A proponent of openness, Tahir said anyone of any faith is invited to come and learn about Islam at 1 p.m. Fridays.
That’s why the sermons are in English.
“Nothing is hiding. Everything is open,” Tahir said. “Everybody who comes here can understand what I am saying.”
Tahir describes the cultural center neighborhood as “amazing, with excellent people.”
He tries to keep it that way, he said, by driving home a basic point to his congregation: don’t block anybody’s driveway.
“In Islam, haram means forbidden or unlawful,” Tahir said. “I tell them, it is haram to block somebody’s driveway.”
That approach is in sync with his philosophy: let peace start within and around wherever you are, right now.
Two weeks ago, he said, he did a ride-along with a Bergenfield police officer. Local priests, ministers and rabbis do it, too.
“They want us to know what is going on,” Tahir said.
“They think this is the way to bring the community together and promote peace. This is wonderful.”
Also, Tahir belongs to an informal consortium of Bergenfield faith leaders who visit each other’s houses of worship, sit together and talk.
Both programs, he said, are exemplary for other towns.