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A House of Orison and Peace

- Masjid in Daegu -

Joo, Ken Seong-ho 기자2012.06.09 19:18:48

 
It is easy to find foreigners around due to globalization. People from overseas try to keep their traditions even when they are living on foreign soil. They usually preserve their culture at home, but there is a special place where foreigners can keep their religious faith and culture in Korea. Muslims have their own place of worship, called a masjid or mosque. Daegu Islamic Center is a masjid, and serves as a community center for the Muslims in Daegu. I went there to find out answers to the questions “what kind of place is it?” and “who goes there?”

Before the construction of Daegu Islamic Center, there had been several places for the Muslims to pray in Daegu. However, those places were not large enough to accommodate many people. Therefore, Muslim international students, workers, and businessmen raised funds in order to build the masjid in 2008. Daegu Islamic Center is located in Jukjeon-dong, Dalseo-gu. Around the center, there is a big parking lot. You can find the center after entering a small ally to the left of a branch of the Industrial Bank of Korea. After turning right at the ally, you will find the Daegu Islamic Center. The center is a three-floor building. Before the performance of formal prayer, the Muslims have to wash their faces, arms, and feet to cleanse themselves. I saw people washing their bodies on the first floor and then they went upstairs. On the second floor, there is a prayer hall where people pray together. The prayer hall was filled with people and I was allowed to take some pictures. The prayer hall in a masjid is usually decorated simply; you will only see a carpet on the floor and little furniture. Daegu Islamic Center provides lectures on the Quran and a meal after the congressional prayer.

I visited Daegu Islamic Center on the Friday before Jumuah began. Jumuah is congressional prayer and it is mandatory for the Muslims to go to the masjid for Jumuah. While people served Jumuah, I looked around the masjid. I saw an Imam praying in front of people who leads Jumuah and delivers a sermon before Jumuah. Recently, Imam Noor Ali came to Daegu Islamic Center to serve as an imam. After Jumuah, I had a chance to meet people there to ask some questions. I expected difficulty having an interview since I did not know anyone nor could I speak their languages, however, there was a person who can speak Korean well and his name was Alhamm. With help of Mr. Alhamm, I could have interviews at the center and he answered kindly any question I asked about the Daegu Islamic Center.
Fortunately, most Korean employers allow Muslim workers to do Salah at their workplaces. Salah only takes about five minutes and many Korean employers regard the prayer time as rest time in which to refresh rather than an unreasonable waste of time.
One of the biggest concerns for Muslims in Korea is food. According to the Quran, a Muslim must not eat several types of food such as pork. Slaughtering livestock has to follow the guidelines of the Quran. If livestock is not slaughtered as the Quran dictates, meat will not be halal (this means ‘lawful’ in Arabic). Therefore, the Muslims in Korea usually cook at home or buy groceries in a supermarket which sells halal food. However, it does not mean that they do not eat Korean food at all. They can also eat Korean food, if a forbidden ingredient is not used. Bibimbap(mixed rice with vegetables), DwenjangJjigae(soybean paste soup), and broiled fish are their favorite Korean dishes.
As Korea is a foreign country for most Muslims, the cultural difference is inevitable. They said they have been experienced many problems derived from cultural differences. Thanks to cultural similarity between Korea and their countries however, some Korean cultures were not difficult to adjust to. Most Muslims are from countries where there is respect for the elders. Despite customs related to age difference in their countries not being as rigid as in Korea, they understand the relation between age and respect.
While I was in the center, I had an opportunity to listen to what they need from Koreans. One of the biggest barriers for the Muslim community in Korea is the prejudice against them. They wish they could talk with Koreans face to face to break down the prejudice which impedes relationships between Koreans and the Muslims.

Daegu Islamic Center is certainly not a great place for tourism. However, visiting the center is more than entertainment. It can be an opportunity to communicate with people from different cultures. One visit cannot change a lot, but I hope this will be a seed of improved communication.

[No.344]
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