Those who sought, supported Voorhees mosque hope to unite community

Posted: November 11, 2012

Not long after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a small Muslim congregation in Voorhees looked into building a mosque, but ran into opposition from critics who claimed its members had terrorist connections.

Lori Volpe, a Buddhist who teaches yoga and mindfulness, was among the first to support plans for the mosque. Now, she and others involved in the fight to build the Voorhees Islamic Center have another mission: helping their South Jersey neighbors achieve inner peace.

That, at least, is the goal of a new interfaith community group, Tapestry, which will hold a public meeting at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Cherry Hill.

The group hopes to bring together people from different backgrounds, religious and philosophical, for group discussions about "big life issues," said Volpe, of Voorhees. Attendees will be asked to suggest topics for future meetings.

The group is an extension of the Coalition for Multi-Faith Democracy, which supported the mosque and its chief organizer, the late Zia Rahman. The Voorhees resident, who was born in Pakistan, forged a close relationship between the Catholic Diocese of Camden and the Muslim American Community Association, which operates the mosque.

In 2009, the year he died, the one-hour documentary Talking Through Walls, which depicted Rahman's struggle to establish the Islamic Center and support he received from non-Muslims, was shown on public television stations around the country.

After the mosque was built, the coalition continued to get together, Volpe said.

"We continued our friendship and dialogue. We felt it was very enriching," she said.

Twelve people, including Rahman's widow, Zahida, are on the new group's guiding council. Among them are Buddhists, Muslims, Unitarian Universalists, and atheists.

They plan to meet three or four times a year to discuss various issues. As for their first admittedly weighty topic, achieving inner peace, Volpe said: "We all want it. We don't know how to get it completely."


Contact Kathy Boccella at kboccella@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @kmboccella.

For information about Tapestry email lorivolpe@verizon.net.

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