MISSOULA – Rejecting anti-Muslim sentiments, members of different faith groups in Missoula mountain valleys of western Montana are marking “Celebrate Islam Week” event later this month, to promote understanding of the world’s second-largest faith.
“The current atmosphere and environment nationwide is basically compelling us to address this issue and become involved,” Samir Bitar, an Arabic professor at the University of Montana and member of SALAM, (Standing Alongside America’s Muslims), told ktvq.com.
Marked from April 25-30, the Islam week includes a series of events to celebrate Islam and its traditions put on by SALAM and the Jeanette Rankin Peace Center.
Organizers hope to cultivate productive dialogue around deep-rooted Islamic culture in the US.
“There are already millions of Muslims living in America and they’re your neighbors, they’re your professor, they’re your co-worker, your fellow student. You might not even know they’re Muslim,” said SALAM member Eamon Ormseth.
SALAM is a group organized by Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Muslims and others of no religion to support Muslims.
The event was suggested to reject blaming all followers of Islam for the evil committed by a few.
“Muslims in general deserve our support. They love their families. They honor their elders. They work hard. They’re loyal. They contribute to their communities. They’re leaders and followers, patriots and slackers, educated and ignorant, pious and indifferent human beings,” a column for Jameel Chaudhry and Clem Work published by The Missoulain reads.
“In other words, they’re just like us – and they are among us. A hundred years ago, we feared Germans, even though they were already one of the larger immigrant communities in the US Eighty years ago, we feared Jews from Europe and now that paranoia is all but forgotten. Then it was Communists, and Russians. We always seem to need an other to hate and scorn,” they added.
Muslims make up 1% of America’s 322 million population, according to Pew Research center.
Anti-Muslim sentiments have flared by Republican presidential candidates, such as Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson.
Trump’s views on immigration have sparked controversy nationwide, especially his proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the US.