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Arabic and Persian calligraphy adorn the tinted windows of the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California.

California Mosque Connects Sunnis, Shiites

Building bridges between American Sunnis and Shiites, a California mosque is using art and  celebrations to bring members of the Muslim community together.

“I think one missing thing … right now, today, is beauty — really paying attention to the beauty of Islam, and its rich history,” California mosque leader Ali Sheikhulislami said.

Sheikhulislami, the leader of the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California (ICCNC), was talking about activities being held by his mosque to break down divisions between Sunnis and Shiites.

In its majestic building, ICCNC tries to be a model of harmony between the two sects by hosting plays, open mic nights, painting and ceramics classes.

“Every inch of this building just has a meaning,” manager Azita Sayyah says.

Being not like an average mosque, white, black and Asian people, some in embroidered green Sufi robes, others in black Shiite turbans or flowing white Arab jalabeyas, pack ICCNC.

“It’s a unique experience,” says Ali Saadeghi.

“If you go to a traditional Muslim place, that’s not something that you’re gonna get. It’s more fun, and it’s a good place for my kid and my wife to enjoy.”

The United States is home to a Muslim community of between six to eight million.

A recent survey about mosques in the United States found that %44 of Shiite mosques in the United States opened in the 1990s.

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