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.”
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.
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