Observant Muslims at the Islamic Center of Baton Rouge are seeking a better connection with the community around them.
Congregants at the center will hold an open house from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday with refreshments, tours and opportunities to ask questions, said Mohammad Salam, a volunteer with the center.
“The goal of the open house is to get the community of Baton Rouge to see the center and to make a bridge between us and everybody,” Salam said.
The center is at 285 E. Airport Ave. It comprises a masjid, which is Arabic for mosque, or house of worship, and a community center for area Muslims to gather. It opens five times a day for prayer, with Friday prayers the largest gathering.
Between 300 and 400 members gather Fridays at the center.
Members of the center come from more than 20 countries, and Salam said daily prayers there show a strong diversity from the variety of vibrant colors of clothing to the languages spoken.
While there are 1.57 billion Muslims worldwide, according to the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life, many Americans know very little about Islam, Salam said.
“They just don’t know about the faith,” he said. “Many things will be clarified.”
About 2.5 million Muslims live in America, according to Pew, and more than 5,000 residents of the Baton Rouge area are estimated to practice Islam, volunteers at the Islamic Center said last year.
Salam recommends that those interested either in converting to the religion or learning more about it first become acquainted with Islam through meeting adherents, instead of through books and films.
“If you want to know more about something, you must ask the person,” he said.
Sunday’s open house will not have a rigid schedule.
Members will be available for questions, conversation and tours on a “one-to-one” basis.
Previous open houses have attracted hundreds of interested visitors, and Salam said he hopes a large crowd comes Sunday.
“We need to meet each other and establish a better relationship with everyone,” he said.