Harrisburg mosque welcomes outspoken critic to Ramadan open house

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Source: Penn Live

By Charles Thompson

Matthew Jansen, an outspoken Donald Trump supporter, studied and broke bread with some of the new faces of America in Harrisburg Friday and, we’re pleased to report, bridges of understanding were built.

Maybe just a small, one-lane bridge.

But in a political year where, increasingly, people of different viewpoints can isolate themselves in their own bandwidth, it felt like progress.

Jansen’s unlikely visit to a Ramadan celebration at Harrisburg’s Hadee Mosque was prompted by what became a public furor over a voice-mail rant Jansen directed at a United Church of Christ pastor in York County earlier this month.

In Jansen’s Donald Sterling-like moment, he called out the Rev. Christopher Rodkey for using a roadside signboard at his Dallastown church to offer Ramadan blessings to its Muslim neighbors.

Jansen was publicly chastised for the call and a subsequent Tweet posting the church’s telephone number.

And, in short order, he was also offered a sign of grace from the Hadee congregation of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, which invited Jansen to its Friday prayer service and fast-breaking iftar in what it hoped would become a teachable moment.

That it was.

For the uninitiated, the month-long celebration honors the time when Allah, via the angel Gabriel, revealed the first verses of the Quran, the holy book of Islam, to the prophet Muhammad.

It is marked by, among other things, daily dawn-to-sunset fasts.

Jansen took in the sermon on the true meaning of jihad from Imam Hassan Ahmed – it is a word, you should know, that is laden with several meanings, all of which boil down to living a Godly life.

Then, it was the guest’s turn.

Jansen first tried to explain his rant, which he characterized as an ill-conceived but heartfelt attempt to engage Rodkey in a debate about what he saw as a series of provocative roadside messages.

(In other settings, Jansen has apologized for that rant, in which he called the Muslim faith “godless.”)

He then peppered the imam and his congregants with a series of questions about their church.

In the healthy give-and-take that followed, Jansen heard:

* Pleas from congregants to understand that 30,000 Isis fighters, and lone wolves who may act in their name, can not be allowed to represent 1.6 billion Muslims across the world.

When Jansen asked how many Muslim sects in the United States are “hostile” to the West, Ahmed said the true answer is that there are only rogue individuals with personal or political agendas.

The lessons taught in most American mosques, Ahmed said, are given specifically with an eye toward preventing radicalization.

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