I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous the first time I visited the Concord mosque.
It was a pleasant October afternoon, a Friday, and I attended the prayer service at the Islamic Society of Greater Concord to find out what Muslims thought of the 2016 presidential election.
I planned my outfit that day carefully – long sleeves and pants to cover up – and I asked the mosque president, Hubert Mask, if I should put something over my head. He said there was no need.
After parking outside the East Concord Community Center, I took a deep breath, straightened the scarf around my neck and went inside.
It was relatively empty five minutes before Jum’ah prayers began at 1 p.m., so I took off my shoes where I saw a few others lined up and went looking for Mask. He greeted me with a handshake and showed me into the prayer room downstairs, where his wife, Faizah, offered me a chair to observe from.
Several more women trickled in and took their place on the small prayer rugs angled towards Mecca. The Arabic recitations were unfamiliar to me – I tried to figure out the pattern in which the women stood up, got down on their knees, and then, in the posture so commonly associated with Islam, put their foreheads to the ground, their stocking feet poking out beneath them.
I perked up once the imam began his service, which was delivered in English. I heard ideas familiar to the ones expressed in my own church on Sunday: keeping patience through tribulation and responding to challenges with faith and peace.
They seemed particularly comforting as America navigated its way through the last month of an extremely divisive, anxiety-inducing election.
It wasn’t until the weekend after Nov. 8 that I returned to the mosque. I covered an anti-Trump protest earlier in the day, and after standing in the middle of protesters and counter-protesters shouting at each other over my head in downtown Manchester, the mosque was an oasis of quiet and warmth.