Zahra Abidi (left), of the Husayniah Islamic Society of Seattle, retired pastor Janice Nesse and guest Imam Rasoul Naghavi visit Sunday morning at a block party and potluck in Snohomish that was hosted by the organization. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Zahra Abidi (left), of the Husayniah Islamic Society of Seattle, retired pastor Janice Nesse and guest Imam Rasoul Naghavi visit Sunday morning at a block party and potluck in Snohomish that was hosted by the organization. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Backers of a planned Snohomish mosque meet the neighbors

The Husayniah Society hosted a potluck to explain the vision and dispel myths about Islam.

SNOHOMISH — From roosters crowing at dawn to stargazing at dusk, Zahra Abidi loves the countryside look of Snohomish.

She’s the president of the new mosque and interfaith center coming to State Street in the next two to three years. She said she wants the new buildings to reflect the rural setting.

“There’s something about this area. It’s beautiful,” she said.

To get to know the town, Abidi and the Husayniah Islamic Society of Seattle hosted a potluck Sunday at the new site and invited local officials, faith leaders and neighbors.

Abidi said she wants the mosque and interfaith center to be for everyone in town, not just Muslims. It’ll be a place where kids can hangout and do homework after school or where neighbors can get together to exchange ideas or discuss mutual problems.

“Anyone can resonate with this,” said guest Imam Rasoul Naghavi.

Masood Zaidi is one of the society’s leaders. He said the site’s female president makes it unique.

“She’s here to help,” he said.

Masroor Syed gathers cotton candy Sunday morning at a block party hosted by the Husayniah Islamic Society of Seattle in Snohomish. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Masroor Syed gathers cotton candy Sunday morning at a block party hosted by the Husayniah Islamic Society of Seattle in Snohomish. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Abidi said women are better equipped in creating a sense of community.

“That’s who we are, we bring people together,” she said. “When you bring everyone together, everything is in its right place.”

“I don’t want to be rude, but sometimes I think men don’t see it.”

Another goal of the potluck was to dispel some misinformation about Islam and the society’s plans.

“We are a group of Americans,” Masood Zaidi, one of the leaders, said. “Most of the people have been here for a long time.”

Susan Sparks and her husband John Anderson live nearby. They said they saw several comments about the center on Nextdoor, a social-networking app for neighborhoods.

Most of them were positive, they said. But some used inflammatory language and accused the group of wanting to bring homeless people and drug users to Snohomish.

“We are obligated by our Constitution to be inclusive to everyone,” Sparks said.

Zaidi said he isn’t surprised by the comments, but the majority of responses have been positive.

“It’s always there,” he said. “We can talk to them, show we’re part of the community. To think nothing like that will happen would be foolish.”

Abidi said the center is not a homeless shelter, but “if people come, we will help them. We don’t want them on the streets.”

Another area of concern for neighbors on the app was loud prayers at all hours of the day. Abidi said that will not be the case.

The potluck was attended by neighbors and various faith leaders.

Liz Gimmestad shares a laugh Sunday morning at a block party hosted by the Husayniah Islamic Society of Seattle in Snohomish. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Liz Gimmestad shares a laugh Sunday morning at a block party hosted by the Husayniah Islamic Society of Seattle in Snohomish. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

At one point, Abidi stood with Janice Nesse, a retired Lutheran pastor, both in their traditional clothing.

“Attire shouldn’t divide us,” Abidi said.

Nesse was giving a guest sermon in Lake Stevens before hearing about the potluck. She also attended the opening of a mosque in Northgate in the 1980s.

“It’s been such a blessing for the people there and I’m sure this will be the same way,” she said.

Stacy Kitahata traveled from Shoreline with her husband Diakonda Gurning, a Lutheran pastor.

“We want to support our Muslim siblings,” Kitahata said.

She said it’s important for Snohomish’s Muslim residents to have the space to worship.

The mosque will be the fifth Shia mosque in the state. Others are in Mukilteo, Lynnwood, Northgate and Tacoma.

Joey Thompson: 425-339-3430; jthompson@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @byjoeythompson.

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