7050 Eckstrom Avenue, San Diego
Congregants: daily, 100–150; Friday weekly prayer service, 1200
Weekly Services: 12:15 & 1:15 p.m., Fridays
Imam: Taha Hassane
Born: Tenes, Algeria
Formation: University of Algiers-Institute of Islamic Sciences, Algiers, Algeria; Graduate Theological Foundation, South Bend, Ind.
Years in Ministry: 20 years
San Diego Reader: What form does your sermon usually take?
Imam Taha: The Koran is one of the most important parts of our sermon. When I want to emphasize a specific concept, then I have verses from the Koran and sayings of the prophet. There are also a lot of examples from the lives of the prophets — Jesus, Moses, Abraham, Noah, and all the way going back to the Koran and the tradition of the prophet Mohammad.
SDR: What is your main worry as member of the clergy?
IT: Within my community my concern is to make sure I am doing my job in terms of educating my community and guiding them to the right path to be good Muslims and representing their faith and religion in the best way possible. My external concern is with the larger society. How do I reach out to our fellow men and women, our fellow citizens and neighbors, to give them a better picture of Islam than the one that is portrayed in the media, the one that is full of stereotypes and misconceptions?
SDR: What is the greatest strength of your community in carrying out its mission?
IT: Most of the members are well educated with PhDs and master’s degrees, engineers and business owners. Many of them are open-minded enough to understand the requirements of their faith. One of these requirements is to connect to the larger society where they live.
SDR: What is the greatest weakness of your community in carrying out this mission?
IT: A generation gap is number one, and the mentality of immigrants who are not familiar with American culture is second. A lot of members came as refugees, whether from camps in Jordan or Assyria or Turkey…or from Somalia who spent their entire lives in refugee camps in Uganda and so on. This is actually one of the major obstacles for our community to integrate and understand their mission here in the United States. Also, there is a huge gap between immigrant parents who came here a few years ago and their kids who were born and raised here. They’re carrying their faith in one hand and the American culture in the other hand. I deal with a lot of family conflicts between parents and kids because of misunderstanding. The kids think their parents are backwards and can’t relate to them. The parents think they are losing their kids just because they’d rather eat a hamburger than couscous. I don’t see anything wrong by having a young Muslim, strong in his or her faith, proud of their identity, but at the same time going to McDonald’s or enjoying surfing on the beach and those sorts of activities.
SDR: Where do you go when you die?
IT: I am working very hard in my life to be blessed enough to be granted paradise.
SDR: And what happens if you’re not blessed enough?
IT: I’m not thinking about any other place but paradise. I cannot even think about it. It’s so painful and so hard, even when I think about hell.