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Conversation Starters

Two years after 9/11, local Muslims still work to introduce Islam to Pittsburghers.

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"9/11 has brought to the surface a lot of questions and confusion and tension ... and it can now be dealt with openly," says Dalia Mogahed, outreach program director for the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh.

The Oakland mosque - one of seven serving the region's 10,000 Muslims - will hold an open house from 5 to 9 p.m. this year on the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, much as it did in 2002. Last year, says Mogahed, about 400 people came to see the worship service and attend "conversation stations."

"It's not meant to convince anyone of anything," she emphasizes. "It's just a time to engage in open dialogue as human beings."

Some of the topics this year include Islam's basics, the role of women and the Muslim view of human rights and war. There are calls to prayer at 5 and 8 p.m. and roundtable discussions at 5:30 and 7. The evening also includes Koran readings, a children's choir singing poetry, and food from Muslim countries.

"Meet your Muslim neighbors," the organizers urge.

"We wanted to take the chance on 9/11 and remember the victims of terrorism all over the world and look forward to the future with renewed hope and commitment," concludes Mogahed. "While the tragedy has shaken us all, we feel that we must rebuild an even stronger country."

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