“A Week of Dialogue” At Mosques, Inviting Non-Muslims Inside to Ease Hostility Toward Islam

This week, hundreds of mosques and Islamic organizations across the country have been encouraging their members to invite non-Muslims to attend prayers, discussions and tours of Islamic centers as a way to defuse hostility toward the Muslim population. “A Week of Dialogue,” materialized from a summit of Islamic leaders last month in New York and was, in part, a response to the furor surrounding a plan to open a Muslim community center and mosque near ground zero.

A New York Times poll in August found that 75 percent of New Yorkers had never visited a mosque, and that those who had, or who had a close Muslim friend, were more likely to support the Muslim center planned in Lower Manhattan. “In terms of rectifying this Islamophobia and bigotry, we should focus on our relationship with our neighbors,” said Zaheer Uddin, executive director of the Islamic Leadership Council of Metropolitan New York, an umbrella group of mosques and Islamic groups in the city.

Juan Williams gave voice to such concerns this week when he said on the Fox News Channel, where he is a political analyst, that he got “nervous” when he saw people in “Muslim garb” on an airplane. National Public Radio, where Mr. Williams had also worked, terminated his contract on Wednesday; Fox gave him a new contract on Thursday. The organizers of the weeklong dialogue said the open houses were intended to help dispel just the sort of concerns that Mr. Williams expressed.