Muslim leaders in the United States are inviting the American public to their mosques to encourage a dialogue with other religions and to counter anti-Islamic tensions.
According to American Muslim leaders, hundreds of mosques across the United States are opening their doors this week to people of all religions to encourage interfaith understanding.
Zaheer Uddin, executive director of the Islamic Leadership Council of New York, says some 20 mosques in the city are holding an "open house" as part of a week of dialogue to counter what he calls "Islamaphobia" that has grown during the past six months.
Imam Al-Amin Abdul Latif, president of the Leadership Council, told reporters that the dialogue is intended to educate the public about Islam.
"We feel very strongly that this will help thwart and stymie the hatred against Islam and Muslims being spread by anti-Islamic extremists and bigots," said Imam Latif.
Muslim leaders discussing the weeklong program say there are many misconceptions about Islam, including the belief that it encourages bigotry and that it is a religion of terrorism.
According to the Leadership Council's Al-Amin Abdul Latif, the nationwide, coordinated effort to combat those stereotypes is an expansion of previous Muslim efforts in the United States to meet with the general public.
"How successful we will be, again, we've always had great success in doing this," he said. "And hopefully, this week by extending it more and trying to be a little more aggressive just to get Muslims to do it more - that's what the problem is; we're not doing enough. So if enough of us begin to do it more, it will go a long way in terms of educating the public and allaying their fears of Muslims in the mosque, what goes on in the mosque."
One Muslim leader says the success of the first three New York events over the weekend - at the Islamic Cultural Center, at a Brooklyn mosque and at a Protestant church - indicate that the program is off to a good start.