I was in town to cover the Planned Parenthood protests, got there early before the people did when I noticed an older fellow heading toward the Mosque. (Which was a bakery years ago). I never had actually been inside and asked the person (who it turns out was 89 year old Grammy winner Jazz legend Yusef Lateef of all people) if I could speak to the Iman, I wanted his take on Planned Parenthood opening across the street. I was told the gentleman would be there in 15 minutes and I was welcome to wait.
I hung around waiting with the gentleman while people continued coming in, men and boys to the front section and women to the rear behind a curtain. The congregation was primarily Indian rather than Arabic in appearance. When the Imam, Bashir Uddin Mehmud arrived it turned out he was about to start his Friday Service, he invited me to stay and I observed the service which lasted about 35 minutes.
His sermon was a no nonsense one about the start of Ramadan next Wednesday and the need for spiritual renewal, the rewards of fasting and the need to avoid sin and temptation. The basic thrust of the sermon could have been given in any Catholic Church in preparation for Lent. He also asked the congregation to pray for the members of their community that were killed in the May 28th Mosque Attacks. (Their Branch of Islam the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community are rejected by many mainstream Muslim groups). His sermon also touched on a denouncement of violence. Not surprising as his sect has been the target of radical Islam
We spoke for 45 minutes after the service. He has lived in Fitchburg for almost 30 years and has seen the change in the town. His opinions on the direction of the city and the cultural decay of the country could have been said by my mother.
This is the same group BTW that you might remember from the 4th of July parade , where you had Christians, followed by the Jews, followed by this Muslim community back to back.
He seems a very fine fellow and everyone was very sociable considering I was a stranger suddenly thrust upon them. From what I saw this is exactly the type of Islam we need to see more of.
As for Planned Parenthood speaking for himself he said it was a symptom of a larger cultural decay he mentioned before.
Update: Just heard from the Imam who kindly invited me back anytime. Who would have thought I’d be exchanging friendly e-mails with a local Imam two weeks ago?