VIENNA – Sharing inspiring stories of new Muslims, Vienna Islamic Center has invited a galaxy of noted Muslim speakers and reverts in the first meeting for new Muslims in the Austrian capital.
“Our center is opened to everyone. We have many non-Muslims coming to visit Vienna Islamic Center every day,” Dr. Hashim A. Mahrougi, the head of Vienna Islamic Center, told OnIslam.net.
“Sometimes they are students studying about Islam or tourist groups, sometimes just an Austrian couple who wants to see a mosque inside and talk to Muslims about their religion.
“We maintain a very good relationship with the inhabitants around us including the police who is most welcomed to visit us any time as we do not have anything to hide.”
Dr. Mahrougi was speaking during an event held in Vienna last October 27 for Muslim reverts.
Connecting with new Muslims, the center has recently launched a program series called “Back2Islam Project” in order to bring the city’s Muslims closer to each other and invite non-Muslims as well to participate and learn more about Islam.
Sunday's event was the first fruit of the project, attended by more than 100 participants; including Austrians, Turkish, Arabs and people from other nationalities.
“We want to make the non-Muslims understand that our religion teaches us peace and we are not terrorists or oppressors as the media stereotypes Muslims,” Dr. Mahrougi said.
After warm welcome speech and the beautiful recitation of the Noble Qur’an, attendants stared to share their stories of how they found their way to Islam.
“One day, I have started to question the correctness of this society I live in and have started to search for the real purpose of this life,” said Anisa, a 21-year-old Muslim revert of Sudanese origin who has converted to Islam less than a year ago.
“I continuously refused one of my friends’ invitations to Islam; I did not want to hear about it due to my bad experiences with some immigrant Muslims in my country. But somehow, once I gave him a chance to speak about this religion and it changed everything inside me. I got logic answers for my questions,” she added.
“I was born as a Muslim but haven’t practiced it till recent times. HamduliAllah, Allah has guided me,” said her husband, Samir, who has Hungarian-Tunisian parents.
The event reached its peak that made many attendants in tears when an Austrian young lady, Lutica Hustavova, declared shahada, embracing Islam in the event.
“I am so happy for her, finally she has decided to enter to Islam,” Lutica’s friend told OnIslam.net.
Asking the participants about their life as Muslims in Austria, most of them responded positively.
Opening their doors to non-Muslims as well, the event organizers hoped to correct misconceptions wrongly associated with Islam.
“Every society, every community has mistakes and Muslims are not exception from this,” Dr. Mahrougi told OnIslam.net.
“But one of the aims of our center is to bring the people together to know what Islam really is and how Muslims should live their life while giving a good experience to non-Muslims.”
The center offers Qur’an and Arabic lessons for adults, translated books about Islam in German language as well as interfaith seminars and conferences.
It also offers weekend school and educative magazine for Muslim children.
Two weeks ago, the center held an opened day in which Austria’s Minister of Integration participated as well.
“There are 4-5 individuals per month converting to Islam in our center,” Dr. Mahrougi added happily.
Asking the participants about their life as Muslims in Austria, most of them responted positively.
“Vienna is very diverse. We have Arabs, Indians, Chinese, Africans, Europeans and people from other countries, so the citizens got used about it, they are very tolerant and they treat everyone equally,” Solenn, a French who embraced Islam 6 years ago, said.
Others highlighted that misconceptions about Islam were usually connected to non-practiving Muslims.
“The non-practicing Muslims often make troubles in the city and defame Islam and other Muslims by their improper behaviour,” said Anisa, the Muslim revert of Sudanese origin.
“But if you behave others according to the teachings of Islam and you smile at them, they smile at you back. They do not generalize,” she added.
Austrian Muslims are estimated at about half a million or nearly 6 percent of the European country's 8 million population.
In Vienna, Islam is the second-largest religious grouping, after Roman Catholicism.
About 60,000 children take part in Muslim religious education classes in Austrian state schools, according to the Islamic Community.
In 2007, Austria’s Muslims have championed a nation-wide campaign to introduce Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him) and his teachings to their fellow countrymen.
The campaign echoed others launched by Muslims Europe-wide in response to the sacrilegious Danish cartoons that lampooned the Prophet in 2005.
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