Thirty students got to witness firsthand the Muslim liturgy and prayer they had learned about in Georgia Frank’s Introduction to Religion course when they attended congregational prayers at the Bosnian Islamic Association of Utica.
The group, joined by Islamic studies professor Aaron Spevack of Hamilton College, listened to the imam’s sermon (in English) and observed the Friday prayers (in Bosnian) from the upper gallery.
Afterward, they met with Avlim Tricic, president of the Bosnian Islamic Association, Imam Ahmedin Mehmedovic, and other leaders of the Utica Islamic community.
Imam Ahmedin, who is 23 years old, spoke with the students for a half hour during the November visit.
The imam urged the students to share what they learned in the mosque with their friends and family, Frank said, and while he did not mention Fort Hood, he knew from the students’ rapt attention that they understood.
“We discussed what it was like to be a Muslim in America, and the imam strongly emphasized the importance of breaking the typical ‘terrorist’ stereotype Muslims have to deal with,” said Isaac Kim ’12. “He seemed especially concerned with the recent events and wanted to tell us that Islam was a religion of peace, as evidenced by the message that he gave during the prayer.”
Following their discussion, the hosts led them on a tour of other parts of the mosque, including the classrooms, where 160 children attend weekend classes, and the banquet hall, where they treated the group to donuts and coffee.
The trip was sponsored by Beyond Colgate.
“In my fifteen years teaching Introduction to Religion,” said Frank, “we have hosted amazing visitors to campus. Beyond Colgate allowed us to be the stranger in someone else’s home. We experienced a vibrant religious community who welcomed us with open arms.
“As the students reported afterward, they did not expect the ‘field trip’ to spawn so many discussions about what genuine religious understanding means in today’s complex world,” she said.
For Kim, the most interesting aspect of the trip was seeing how men and women prayed separately at the mosque.
“The men prayed on the ground level, while the women prayed on the balcony, and had separate entrances into the mosque to avoid bumping into the men during the service,” he said.