With his hands resting on his temples, Saboor closed his eyes and sang the azan, the sacred words that beckon Muslims across the world to profess their faith.
With each passage, Saboor’s voice rose and fell, echoing against the walls as if the melody would take flight across the rooftops in downtown Framingham.
For many of the non-Muslims standing in the room, it was a moment of religious fervor that resonated beyond the boundaries of any one faith, demonstrating the beauty many find in an expression of spiritual belief.
Members of the Framingham mosque welcomed guests of all types at an open house Saturday, hoping to help their friends and neighbors better understand their traditions. Balloons waved in the wind as members of the mosque invited those strolling by downtown to tour the building and learn more about their customs.
Dubbed a “Meet Your Muslim Neighbors” day, the event was sponsored by The Islamic Society of Framingham and organized by youth who attend the mosque.
At a time when Muslims face turmoil both abroad and in the United States, members of the group want to strengthen their bonds in MetroWest and quell any fears non-Muslims have about their religion, said Fareed Siddiqui, president of the society’s board of directors.
“Right now, the way the environment is, there are a lot of questions about Muslims and Islam …” he said, “so we want to answer those questions. We will try our best to answer those questions.”
Located in a brick building at 243 Union Ave., the mosque serves about 50 families from Framingham, Natick, Ashland, Milford, Southborough and a few other surrounding towns.
The mosque has its roots in a place of worship launched in 1985 by Mohammed Siddiqui, who invited local Muslims to pray together in a small condominium on Gordon Street. The mosque later moved to 66 South St., then relocated to its current location about nine years ago.
While members of the Islamic Society of Framingham have long considered holding an open house, Siddiqui said the idea took on greater urgency amid the heated rhetoric of the 2016 political campaign, which has elicited anti-Muslim sentiment in some parts of the country.
While local Muslims feel welcome in Framingham, Siddiqui said members of the mosque want non-Muslims to understand that Islam has a “beautiful message” and its adherents are proud Americans.
“Muslims are being dragged into the whole conversation, in terms of who we are and what we can be over here in the (United States),” he said, “so … we want to bring to the people that we are part of the fabric over here. We are not any strangers. We are part of the community.”
Shabira Khalid, a teacher from Ashland, said she often receives questions about the religious head scarf she wears. After living in the United States for almost 20 years, Khalid said she views herself as an American, but struggles to combat perceptions of Muslims she sees in the media.
“I want to be part of this country,” she said, adding, “I don’t want some politician coming and telling me what Islam is.”
Youth from the mosque staffed a series of informational booths in the parking lot, chatting with visitors about the tenets of their faith and explaining customs such as the hijab, the religious head coverings worn by many Muslim women.
Anam Moghni, a 24-year-old from Ashland, said the hijab is a component of a wider belief in modesty, which is expected of both Muslim men and women.
“I think there’s this perception that women who do hijab are oppressed,” she said, “and we’re trying to break that and show that’s not the case. We’re working. We’re students. We live our daily lives normally … . It’s just our way of identifying ourselves as Muslims.”
Young girls from the mosque handed out white roses to each guest. Affixed to their stems was a passage from the Prophet Muhammad, the central figure in Islam, which read: “You will not enter paradise until you have faith; and you will not complete your faith till you love one another.”