During Ramadan, Muslims reach out to foster understanding

Gesturing at cameras in the room during a recent Friday sermon at his Pembroke Pines mosque, Shafayat Mohamed shared his solution for turning what Muslims are calling a tide of anti-Islamic sentiment: Throw the doors wide open — online.

"Let the world see we have nothing to hide, nothing evil to say!," the bearded Trinidadian imam shouted with a lilt.

Darul Uloom, a storefront mosque that attracts a mix of West Indian, South Asian and African-American Muslims, has taken to the Web to battle negative images of Islam.

It's among the few mosques nationwide and the only one in South Florida to provide live streaming of its Friday sermons, and part of a growing trend for mosques to open doors during Ramadan, often offline, to non-Muslims to foster understanding.

After all, the imam says, Ramadan is the most spiritual time of year -- in addition to food Muslims abstain from water, sex and impure thoughts during the day -- and when a pious Muslim's lens becomes almost completely focused on God. It's this month, South Florida's 70,000 Muslims believe, that Allah revealed the words of the Koran to their prophet.

The effort comes after months of heated debates about the role of Islam in the United States, including emotional protests against the "Ground Zero mosque" and other mosque construction projects from Murfreesboro, Tenn., to Sheboygan, Wis., and Temecula, Calif. In all cases, many opponents have said the mosques could be incubators for radical Islam.

This spring, New York-based "Stop the Islamization of America" placed dozens of ads on Miami-Dade buses offering to help Muslims leave the religion. In Gainesville, a church inflamed Muslims with plans for a mass Koran burning on 9/11.

To hundreds gathered at his mosque on a recent Friday and another 1,000 watching online, Mohamed outlined his simple response: "Just let us spread the message of Islam, let people know the better of the Koran. . .People will learn more, Islam will spread, people will understand," he said.

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