In this op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, journalist David Hansen (who is non-Muslim) talks about his experience being part of a guided tour of local mosques in Orange County, CA. The journalist took part of an “education tour,” offered by Hoffy Tours, whereby he and 50 others spent an informative Saturday touring the Islamic Society of Orange County (ISOC) in Garden Grove and the Islamic Institute of Orange County (IIOC) in Anaheim. The two mosques are among 22 in Orange County that serve approximately 40,000 Muslims.
“This tour was definitely a departure from my typical architectural appreciation tours,” says tour owner Bill Hoffman. “I chose the tour because people right now are curious and very interested in Islam. Media coverage is over 90% negative, and my guests wanted to know more.”
Hansen reports that the tour is like a day-long “TED talk of UN ambassadors broadcasted by PBS” and says that the tour included formal prayer observation, presentations by Islamic leaders, a Q&A, roundtables, and “a remarkable Koran recitation by a young boy.” Hansen continues: “The entire day was remarkable, in fact – and exhausting. The topics were heavy and trended toward differences, misconceptions, hate and terrorism.”
Tour director Hoffman concurs. “Our Muslim hosts were incredibly welcoming and articulate. They answered tough questions and emphasized that terrorism and violence is anti-Islam. They also pointed out that moderate Muslim voices are not covered by the media…. This one was a great learning experience and I’m still thinking about it.”