The World Religions class, led by theology teacher Tika Lee, visited the Islamic Center of Southern California near Koreatown on Sept. 15. During the visit, seniors met the Muslim community, observed the 1:00 p.m. prayer service, and joined the Muslim community in prayer.
Lee said, “[Because] we’re learning about Islam, the students need to be interacting with the community in some way. It also shows support for the Muslim community. I think often in the United States they are not supported and they are discriminated against, so it’s important to show a sign of unity with that community and solidarity.”
Lee’s class arrived at the mosque shortly before the prayer service began. Lee encouraged her students to join in the prayer service. They were told to remove their shoes, step onto a prayer mat, and engage in the prostrations used for the ceremony.
Senior Jonathan Plasencia said, “Mass is different because you’re quiet and you’re not doing as much, but in this you’re on your knees and submitting yourself to God or Allah. I grew a new admiration for all the devotion it takes and how they put themselves into it.”
Lee has said the response from her students has often been positive. She, along with many students, has said that their participation fosters a new respect and view of the entire community.
Senior Paolo Sanchez also experienced a change of perspective. He said, “[The service leader] said that Islam is a religion of freedom, and amidst all this violence and this media that is shown today about the Islamic people, they shouldn’t be afraid of giving Islamic traditions to their children so that they are able to keep their faith strong.”
Senior Santiago Olarte said, “I think it brought to light a lot of unheard issues in the Islamic community. Normally, in the media they are portrayed as the bad guys and whenever any terrorist attack happens, I feel like the media is quick to call out and put blame on the Muslims. But in reality, [Islam] doesn’t condone violence and terrorist attacks, and they have to constantly remind [the public]that terrorists are not true followers of the Islamic religion.”
Sanchez said,“I have two words for the overall experience: simple and powerful. Although we’d only been there for 15 minutes, the experience was simple enough to move you and not over exaggerate on certain things but to actually tell you the truth instead of masking it with different statements. [In regards to powerful,] the whole prayer service was powerful in the sense that it moved you and it really put you in the moment.”