CITY OF BROOKFIELD - As the only mosque in Waukesha County, Masjid Al-Noor is the unofficial center of the local Muslim community.
What does that center have to say about recent developments both in the United States and around the world?
"There's definitely concern. With the rhetoric and the hate speech that's out there, it's been hard to feel safe," Masjid-Al Noor spokesperson Dr. Mushir Hassan said.
The hundreds of members at the Brookfield mosque have been following the news as closely as anyone since last week when President Donald Trump implemented a ban on immigration and refugees from seven Muslim-majority nations.
The congregation has been even more disturbed by the burning of a mosque in Texas and Sunday night's mass shooting at a mosque in Quebec City.
"There's a safety issue and there's also the immigration issue. All we're trying to do is come try to get together to pray and people are burning the house down or being violent," Hassan said.
Thus far, Hassan says that Masjid Al-Noor has not been the recipient of any threats and he and other mosque members have had their spirits lifted at least slightly by positive responses.
"We've been encouraged by some of the commentary and emails that we've gotten from friends and colleagues wanting to make sure that we feel comfortable and that we feel safe," Hassan said. "Thankfully, the only messages that we've gotten have been positive."
In the days since Trump's executive order was implemented, many have found themselves stuck in airports or unable to enter the country. Hassan is thankful that no one at the mosque has been directly affected yet, but noted that the ripples into their daily lives are inevitable.
"We don't know anyone who has been detained; however, we have a number of folks who are likely going to have to alter or cancel their travel plans because of concerns," Hassan said.
Masjid Al-Noor and the Islamic Society of Milwaukee West is an extension of ISM based in Milwaukee. For nearly a decade, ISM and Muslims in Waukesha County sought to build a house of worship in the western suburbs. Previously, dozens of Muslims had gathered in various locations around the county to hold prayer, such as Elmbrook Memorial Hospital. The mosque was eventually approved by the Brookfield common council and opened in February 2015.
Hassan and his peers have since made openness and networking with the community a high priority in the daily operations of the mosque.
In that vein, ISM West hosted an open house at Masjid Al-Noor Jan. 21. All members of the public were encouraged to visit the mosque, meet members of the congregation and learn about Islam.
"We definitely want to continue with community engagement. We had 400 people that came through the open house that were willing to learn," Hassan said. "People felt very comfortable and open being able to have questions answered. You can't necessarily get everyone to agree with you, but if you can have dialogue and help people to have open minds that's always a good thing."
While the open house and other similar events have gone well for the mosque in its two years, Hassan admitted that it is impossible to feel entirely at ease.
"We'd like to, but the difficulty is that even in Brookfield last weekend we had a shooting. There's enough guns out there in the hands of people who are mentally unstable that you can never feel safe," Hassan said. "You can't have negative targeted policies that just presume an entire spectrum of people are automatically presumed to be suspects. That leads to driving folks that are ignorant to potentially pursuing negative actions."
In touch with police
Members of Masjid Al-Noor have been in regular contact with the city of Brookfield police department.
"They're obviously very concerned about the safety of our whole community and they consider us to be part of their community," Hassan said. "We've been in touch and we'll continue to be in touch."
City of Brookfield mayor Steve Ponto noted that he believes Brookfield to be a welcoming community that does not discriminate on the basis of race or religion.
"We have had no problems with the mosque and any time that there has been any concern, just like with other religions, we've provided extra police protection at those times," Ponto said. "I think that Brookfield is a community that really treats people as individuals, not as members of groups. I'm very proud of the city of Brookfield in that regard."
Through a wider lens, Hassan noted his belief that not only is the Muslim ban as a whole not justified, but that the countries involved do not make sense.
"The nations that are targeted have produced zero terrorist attacks in the United States in the last 40 years," Hassan said. "It's quite interesting that Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, which have produced terrorists, are not banned."
Hassan called upon not only residents of Brookfield and Waukesha County, but all Americans, to speak out against actions that target Muslims.
"We're certainly very thankful about the fact that we've gotten quite a bit of support from folks," Hassan said. "What's important is seeing what's happening now with people pushing back and protesting and saying, 'Look this is un-American.'"