Muslims gathered for prayer and fellowship this week at the new Conemaugh Islamic Center say their Kernville neighbors have welcomed them to the community with open arms.
“We felt a welcome spirit from our neighbors,” Fouad ElBayly said at the new center, 628 Somerset St.
“There have been offers of help, and it was wonderful,” he said. “It has been very nice to get to know the community and connect with them.”
Conemaugh Islamic Center continues to welcome visitors in what was formerly Trinity Asbury United Methodist Church, ElBayly said.
“It was a place of worship and it is a place of worship,” he said.
“We are still welcoming the neighborhood.”
The new center is affiliated with the Islamic Center of Johnstown, 809 Main St., Paint Borough.
The Paint Borough center, which is located off Route 56 just over the Somerset-Cambria county line, opened in April 2005.
Leaders have been looking for a more centralized location, and the Somerset Street property provides convenient access to Muslims who work at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center, ElBayly said.
“A physician can come here from Conemaugh in five minutes,” he said. “They can come here, pray and run back to work.”
The former church in Kernville also provides additional space for the Islamic community’s education and worship events, he said. There are currently about 100 members of the local centers.
Aftab Ahmad Khan of Johnstown invites those who want to learn more about the Islamic religion. Too many people form their ideas from events and descriptions they see in the national media, he said.
“They can come here, and we can give them the proper learning about Islam,” Khan said.
“They can find out first-hand.”
Muslims worship the same God as Christians and Jews, tracing origins back to Abraham, he said.
“We have the same forefather: Adam,” Khan said. “We are all brothers.”
ElBayly says the center’s mission is to promote the true message of Islam.
“The true message of Islam is to promote peace, not violence; to promote love, not hate; to promote brotherhood and unit, not division and bigotry; to promote tolerance and understanding,” he said in a press release.
“We are calling upon you with good heart and in good faith to accept our sincere invitation to visit our new center,” the statement continued. “Please let us meet one another. Let us know one another. Let us love one another in the name of Almighty God, the Creator of us all.”