Community Conversations: Central Illinois Mosque and Islamic Center
By Lindsey Moon, Jim Meadows, and Jeff Bossert
The Central Illinois Mosque and Islamic Center holds Friday prayer every week at 1pm. On June 21, 2013, Illinois Public Media's Jim Meadows and Lindsey Moon visited the mosque to talk with its members as part of the station’s Community Conversations initiative.
Overwhelmingly, Muslim men and women who Moon and Meadows spoke with wanted the larger East Central Illinois community to see the mosque as a diverse group of students and professionals. The CIMIC serves 17 counties and dozens of nationalities and ethnicities, and both Sunni and Shia worship there together.
According to several of the members, its rare for so many ethnicities to worship in the same place. A graduate student at the University of Illinois noted that diversity is in part due to the U of I’s Champaign-Urbana campus.
Meadows notes that there is also a rich history surrounding the mosque. The Muslim Student Association was founded on campus at the University of Illinois in the 1950’s and has grown to have chapters across the country.
Even though the mosque has a rich history and a diverse community, several members still noted that image maintenance is still a big part of their lives.
One woman who the two spoke with after prayer on Friday said she often wakes up and fears what she’ll see when she turns on the news. She’s afraid she’ll find out a “so-called Muslim will have done something stupid." Another man said he would love to be the engineer who happens to be Muslim, not the Muslim man with a scary name who happens to be an engineer.
Perception of Muslims in the area was affected by 9/11 attacks according to members of the CIMIC. Following the attacks, it did become harder to find a job, and a few said they had encountered prejudice because of their faith.
One of the men at the conversation, who was white and American born, said he sometimes feels like an “exotic creature” from the reaction he gets when he shares that he is Muslim and hopes that will change with time as Muslim men and women become more involved in the community in East Central Illinois. He noted one service project already underway includes the Avicenna Community Health Center, located in Champaign. The center provides medical care to uninsured or underinsured patients and serves anyone from East Central Illinois regardless of their faith.
Every month, Illinois Public Media organizes or participates in other organizations’ 'community conversations.' WILL engages in these conversations in an effort to better inform our own news coverage.