By Karla Betania Sánchez Arismendi
Approximately 200 Muslims, most of them from Pakistan, get together to pray every Friday in a mosque at Calle Larga and Benigno Malo in Cuenca.
“We want to show that our culture is not what some people think. Our religion promotes peace and solidarity and that’s what we want people to know,” says Shahid Iqbal, one of the mosque’s organizers.
He adds that the local Muslim community wishes to share its culture with Cuencanos. “Everybody can participate. We don’t want to exclude anyone,” Shahid says.
The Cuenca mosque is decorated with images of Pakistan and Arabic script from the Koran but is otherwise simple to avoid distraction from prayer. There are no chairs; believers pray standing up or kneeling. The floor is decorated with carpets.
Prayer starts daily at 2 p.m. and begins with a symbolic washing of one’s feet as a sign of cleanliness of body and spirit. An Imam (leader) then directs the congregation in songs and gives a sermon about passages in the Koran. The service lasts about 30 minutes.
Most of the congregation is male. The few females attending service traditionally sit behind the men. Afterwards, members of the congregation sit in a circle and share food that is blessed before serving.
“Sharing our culture is an expression of respect before Allah,” says Lautaro Vazquez, a Cuencano who has converted to the Muslim faith.
Source: Diario El Tiempo