Islamic leaders: Education the key to ending intolerance

Oceania/ New Zealand/ 25.03.2019/ Source:

Guests and members stand to observe a moment of silence on Sunday at Annoor Islamic Center in Clemmons. More than 350 people attended the gathering.

Guests and members gather outside the Annoor Islamic Center in Clemmons on Sunday. Speakers at the event discussed ways to end intolerance in the wake of two deadly attacks on mosques in New Zealand that left 50 people dead. Imam Khalid Griggs said Islamophobia is present, and the best way to get rid of it is through education.

Nine days after a man fatally shot 50 people at two mosques in New Zealand, the greater Forsyth community gathered at a Clemmons mosque and discussed what could be done to squelch intolerance.

For some, the discussion was intensely personal.

Noor Shehata, now a freshman in college, recalls when she was a seventh-grader in social studies learning about Sept. 11.

“The teacher said he’d hate to be a brown Muslim who owned a restaurant the next day (after 9/11),” Shehata recounted. “I was a brown Muslim, and my dad owned a restaurant. All eyes in the class went to me.”

She said it was difficult to experience that from someone in a leadership position as a 13-year-old.

“Muslims are forced to grow up much earlier, they know what a terrorist is earlier,” Shehata said.

She learned to develop a filter of herself, looking at how she might appear through others’ eyes.

Imam Khalid Griggs said Islamophobia is present, and the best way to get rid of it is through education. He urged the approximately 350 people in attendance to take a stand against racism in all forms and come together as one against it.

“If we don’t come together as brothers and sisters, we will die as fools,” he said in a reference to a Martin Luther King Jr. quote.

Juana Rhili, an educator, challenged everyone in attendance to share knowledge of the Muslim religion with five other people within the next week.

“We are all, ‘One person, under God,’ and one person can make a change,” she said, referencing the Pledge of Allegiance. “We know these (shootings) will continue to happen unless we change the mindset.”

Others provided additional knowledge of Islam, including that the true message of the religion is peace, people of all nationalities are Muslim, and Muslims are against suicide.

The North Carolina division of the FBI recognized how important connections with the Muslim community are, working for more than four years to strengthen them, said Timothy Stranahan, assistant special agent in charge. Today, there’s a network of about 45 imams across the state the FBI keeps in contact with in the event something happens.

Aladin Ebraheem, with the Annoor Islamic Center in Clemmons where the gathering was held, said that trust is valuable.

He teared up discussing the mass shooting in New Zealand, but knew the community would get through it.

“That individual might have been successful in taking lives, but he failed miserably in intimidating, and the biggest proof is all of you being here,” Ebraheem told the crowd.

“This is not foreign to any of us. Just a few months ago, we were at a Jewish temple, showing support for almost the same thing,” he said, referencing the Tree of Life shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh in October 2018, in which 11 people were killed.

Hana Hariri, who has a young daughter, said more discussions like this need to occur in the community. She said last year, her daughter was called a terrorist because of her faith. She’s also called, “the others.”

“We need to educate more about Islam,” Hariri said. “Education, even in school, and tell kids that Islam is a religion, not terrorism like ISIS. We’re relieved that the FBI is helping.”

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