Morton Grove resident Jenny Montgomery said a young Muslim boy in her fourth grade classroom asked her repeatedly to come to a recent open house at the mosque where the boy and his family worship.

Montgomery, a teacher with Chicago Public Schools, kept her promise to the boy and attended the event held Sunday afternoon at the Muslim Education Center in Morton Grove.

Amid a turbulent election cycle that’s featured anti-Muslim rhetoric, Montgomery said children in her classroom unfortunately are not immune to the things they hear spoken on the national political stage.

It’s one of the reasons she decided to support her student at the open house event.

“I see him struggling with feeling accepted,” Montgomery said. “I think he feels like he’s being singled out, and maybe is a little unsure and a little frightened about what people see when they at look at him.”

Nazim Mangera, Imam for the Muslim Community Center in Chicago, said the election season has led to many misconceptions and misunderstandings about Muslims.

Some politicians feel that if they demonize a minority group, the majority of Americans will vote for them, he said.

Welcoming the community into the mosque is an antidote for that kind of hateful speech, Mangera said.

“When people get to know each other, that’s when people are aware of each other’s beliefs and values,” he said. “It’s a good way of spreading love within the community.”

The open house at the Muslim Education Center in Morton Grove was a part of the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Open House Chicago, a free regional event that opens buildings with architectural significance to the community for tours.

It was the second year the Muslim Community Center and its associated school participated. The event also was sponsored by the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago.

Zara Usman, a 10-year-old student at the Morton Grove center and a Chicago resident, said she’s been personally affected by people who don’t understand her religion.

“When I’m wearing my hijab outside of school, some people look at me with a face as if I’m going to do something,” she said.

Usman, a Girl Scout, said that having non-Muslims visit her school and her house of worship is a heartening gesture.

It also was an opportunity to dismantle common misconceptions and stereotypes about her religion and the people who practice it, she said.

“Seeing them take the time to come in and listen to our speakers makes me pretty happy,” Usman said.

The open house featured tours of the Morton Grove mosque, calligraphy demonstrations, henna tattooing, a group of Muslim Girl Scouts eager to speak with visitors, as well as falafel and pita snacks.

To read the full story, please visit chicagotribune.com.

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