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About 100 people attended a Spokane Interfaith Council event at the Spokane mosque on Oct. 10/Tracy Simmons - SpokaneFAVS

Over 100 show support for Spokane’s Muslim community

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By Tracy Simmons

In cities across the globe today, groups rallied outside mosques to protest Islam. However the event, “Global Rally for Humanity,” didn’t get traction in Spokane.

Instead, when hearing about the worldwide demonstrations, the Spokane Interfaith Council organized a counter-event, “Stand with Spokane’s Muslim Community.”

Skyler Oberst, president of the Interfaith Council, said it was an opportunity to invite the community to come to the Spokane Islamic Center and meet their Muslim neighbors.

“When we first started thinking about having a few people out today I thought maybe 20 (would come) but we have around 100 people here, that’s amazing,” he said. “Muslims have been a part of Spokane a long time. This is about getting to know them.”

Mamdouh El-Aarag, a member of the Islamic Center, said he was disheartened when he heard about the international protests. Then, he said, a friend reminded him those who fear Islam to that extreme are the minority.

“The minority are the loudest,” he said. “The majority has got to be heard. The good people need to be as loud, as present.”

He described the turnout as the mosque as an “amazing day.”

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich stopped by the mosque to say a few words and show his support for the local Muslim community. He said those wanting to protest Islam have a right, but is concerned with their views.

“What I find really disturbing anymore is that we have forgotten certain principles. We have forgotten that the Constitution stands for everybody. We’re all Americans and I think we’ve forgotten that,” he said. “America is probably, truly, the most divided it’s been ever.”

About 100 people attended a Spokane Interfaith Council event at the Spokane mosque on Oct. 10/Tracy Simmons - SpokaneFAVS
About 100 people attended a Spokane Interfaith Council event at the Spokane mosque on Oct. 10/Tracy Simmons – SpokaneFAVS

He said Americans seem to be living on the left, or the right, forgetting that it’s a circle inclusive of all people and their beliefs.

Knezovich added that those participating in the protests, which didn’t even up occurring in Spokane, either live in a state of ignorance of fear. Both, he said, are dangerous.

“You cannot live in a state of anger, hate and fear and expect the principles of America to survive,” he said.

Trish Stauffer attended the Stand with Spokane’s Muslim Community event to show her support the local Islamic community

“I identify with being an American and the freedoms we have here. Muslims come here after enduring unimaginable hardships and I can’t let our own extremists make them feel just as unsafe here as they did there,” she said, adding that many of her Muslim friends feel unsafe in Spokane.

She said she’s a church-attending Christian, though she wouldn’t say what church, and has studied both the Quran and the Bible.

“Their religious tradition does not threaten me,” she said, adding that Muslims too love Jesus.

Admir Rasic, a member of the mosque, said he was pleased with how many showed up to show support and urged attendees to speak out.

“We are not understood well. There’s a lot of misinformation about Muslims,” he said. “My challenge to all of you is to speak up when you hear anti-Muslim bigotry, or bigotry of any kind…make your voices heard. Your voices are more powerful than you know.”

More photos are available on the SpokaneFāVS Facebook page.

Note: Skyler Oberst and Admir Rasic are columnists for SpokaneFāVS.
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Tracy Simmons

About Tracy Simmons

Tracy Simmons is an award winning journalist specializing in religion reporting, digital entrepreneurship and social journalism. In her 15 years on the religion beat, Simmons has tucked a notepad in her pocket and found some of her favorite stories aboard cargo ships in New Jersey, on a police chase in Albuquerque, in dusty Texas church bell towers, on the streets of New York and in tent cities in Haiti.
Simmons has worked as a multimedia journalist for newspapers across New Mexico, Texas and Connecticut. She serves as the executive director of SpokaneFAVS.com, a digital journalism start-up covering religion news and commentary in Spokane, Wash. She also writes for The Spokesman-Review and for the Religion News Service. She is also a Lecturer of Strategic Communication at University of Idaho.

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4 comments

  1. I wasn’t able to make it after all, but glad it went so splendily (no anti-Muslims even appearing) and showed the character of our community

  2. It was a great event! Cheers to Skyler and crew for organizing a big step for a lot of us. I think hosting the event took a certain leap of faith on the part of many of the people involved with the Islamic Center, too, and it was really gratifying to see it come together so successfully.

  3. Such a complex issue, I didn’t attend for various reasons.

    First, because I wasn’t sure if it would be an event that would reflect my faith or values by presenting a narrative that I wouldn’t agree with or think is helpful.

    Second, it was a security issue to me.
    Held on a day that was designated for anti-Muslim rallies meant that the possibility of confrontations, violence or something else were a reality. Especially in a city that has had a bomb plot foiled on MLK day. The bombing on the same day in Turkey that killed almost a hundred peace protesters, is a painful reminder that we are in a battle with evil not just ideas and matters of community hospitality.

    Third I don’t want lumped into the progressive political agenda. I do think there are good Muslims that I can support. I have friends who are Muslim. But all the anti-islamaphobia jargon being thrown around in huge blankets is naive and dangerous in my view. We are
    at war, this fact seems to be ignored by progressives.

    Confusion and consternation is an unfortunate reality for most Americans. We are caught between compassion and concern. We want to be engaged in practicing the very American Values we hold dear, like freedom of religion, welcome of immigrants, freedom of speech etc but are also keenly and some personally connected to the impact of the war on terror.

    We have family members serving, or we are part of putting the pieces back together in the lives of those who have served. We are neck-deep in sifting the cultural narratives from the left and the right that make simplistic, divisive, ignorant caricatures of people
    who are just trying to live in an era where we have seen terrorism on our soil
    and see the horrors or war and extremism almost every day in the news.

    • “I wasn’t sure if it would be an event that would reflect my faith or values by presenting a narrative that I wouldn’t agree with or think is helpful.”

      It’s obviously completely within your rights to attend or not attend anything. But couldn’t you have shown up and then left if it didn’t seem useful? I get the security thing, though I know we all have to take some risks for what we most value.

      “We are at war, this fact seems to be ignored by progressives.”

      Do you see this as a war between Judeo-Christianity and Islam, between East and West, Sharia and democracy? All of the above?

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