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They will greet you with a handshake & a smile
Imaam Mohammed Alfarra leads a prayer at the Islamic Center of Manteca as those in attendance celebrate Ramadan. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

There are more than 1.7 billion Muslim people in the world today.
And just how do the average, hardworking, devout followers of Islam feel about the heinous attacks carried out in their name by fringe groups like ISIS? Well, according to Manteca Islamic Center Imam Mohammed Alfarra – who works as a Manteca pediatric dentist at Valley Oak Dental Group – the indiscriminate killing of non-Muslims is a sin that’s punishable by an eternity in hell.
And in his opinion, those that support their cause or are indifferent to their bastardization of Islam are no better than those that actually pull the trigger and slaughter innocent people – even those that they might not necessarily agree with on a personal or even religious level.
On Friday, Alfarra gave a sermon during Friday prayer services about how it has long been a standing order from the prophet that those who kill non-Muslims during times of peace and security – which Muslims in the United States currently enjoy – won’t get within 40 miles of the eternal paradise for denigrating the faith.
And he urged all of those who attended to go out of their way to educate the less informed among them that those actions are completely decrying by even the most hardline Muslim scholars, and that they won’t tolerate that outlook amongst themselves regardless of what people may hear on television.
“I would say that in more than 99 percent of the mosques around the world, if somebody heard that somebody was planning to do something like this or even supported it they would be turned in faster than a speeding bullet,” Alfarra said. “Because that is somebody that is going to do something against our religion and not for it – spilling the blood of innocents is not what Islam is about, and it denigrates the beliefs that many of us hold dear.”
No, Alfarra is not some new-aged Muslim Imam that is simply adapting his beliefs and his teachings to fit his Western lifestyle. He’s devout in his beliefs – using phrases like “peace be upon him” every time he mentions the Prophet Muhammad in casual conversation. He wears a Taquiyah (cap) and a thawb and has a beard and spent the first part of his sermon talking about how the Quran is in the word of God and that those who don’t claim to be Muslim and don’t follow it are doing a disservice.
His sermon was telling not just because it is rooted in Islamic tradition but because he was willing to stand-up and proclaim that the killing of people – even those who live lifestyles that may be against the religious code that Muslims choose to follow in their daily lives – is wrong regardless of what the other person may be doing. And it’s especially wrong if it’s done in the name of Allah or to somehow glorify Islam in any way.
It’s a far cry from the Sacramento pastor who got up to the pulpit this week and said that he wished the Orlando shooter would have taken more of “them” out. Alfarra showed that it’s possible not to agree with somebody’s lifestyle choices but yet decry those who want to commit the ultimate sin in the name of a religion (if that was in fact his intention – as per the 911 call where he professed his support for the Islamic State) that you happen to be a part of.
It was kind of eye-opening to see in person, especially knowing that several times now people have either vandalized, defaced or otherwise defiled the mosque simply because who worship there are Muslim. But instead of retreating and putting a wall between the mosque and the community, Alfarra saw that it’s even more important now than ever to build a relationship with the community and show that most Muslims – 99.99997 percent – are good people who are active in the community and don’t have anything to hide.
With political candidates making false statements about entire faiths simply to gain traction in the polls and rally those who come out to see them, it can’t be an easy time to be a Muslim in America despite the fact that the country was founded on religious freedom.
Before you jump to any conclusions, however, it might serve you well to simply visit the local Mosque and talk to those who are there to worship about what they truly believe.
I’m sure that Alfarra and the rest of the congregation will welcome you with a handshake and a smile.
And then they’ll go about their prayers as they normally would. Just make sure you take your shoes off if you want to join them.