LAS CRUCES, New Mexico – Amid rising anti-Muslim sentiment, the small Muslim community in Las Cruces, New Mexico have set up a ‘Know Islam’ public booth, engaging the community, dispelling rumors, and enlightening the public about the true Islam.
“We wanted to have a voice about what Islam is for us,” said Sureyya Hussain, 50, who organizes the monthly table, where anyone can come to learn about Islam, the Washington Post reported.
Originally from Wyoming, Hussain, a lawyer and a mother of three, started the monthly event at farmers market.
She suggested opening the booth to counter rising Islamophobia fueled by the policies of President Trump’s administration, including attempts to ban immigration from Muslim-majority countries.
While many centers might choose to keep a low profile, the Islamic Center of Las Cruces, the only mosque in this desert town of 101,000 about an hour north of the Mexican border, decided to engage with the public and debunk myths about their faith.
On Saturdays, Hussain and members of the mosque’s Dawa committee [outreach committee] come to the farmers market where they provide free copies of the Qur’an and pamphlets on different Islamic beliefs.
Then, they sit there for five hours, offering themselves up for whatever comes their way.
“I could very easily sit in my house and hang out, but I’ve decided to do something, and this is the consequence of doing something,” said Mustafa Azimi, 27, a nurse, who joined Hussain and her daughter, along with his wife and another member of the mosque.
“People are going to ask you questions. The goal is showing the community that Islam is not what the news portrays. If people knew that Muslims are also — like, that I’m a nurse who also knows how to cook food — that would be awesome.”
Hussain believes the experience has been beneficial to both Muslims and their neighbors.
“Overall it’s been wonderful,” she said, adding that, “people are friendly. People have a lot to say. Even people who disagree with us.”
Radwan Jallad, an electrical engineer and member of the mosque’s Dawa committee, estimates there are about 500 Muslims, most of them foreign exchange students, at the New Mexico State University.
Approximately 200 show up for the Friday prayer at the Islamic Center of Las Cruces, the only mosque in the city which was founded in the early 1980s.
“The thing about doing the booth is it doesn’t matter if we get a lot of people. It just picks me up,” Hussain said.
“Especially after the election, when we heard all the negative rhetoric, it really makes me feel good to be a part of the community like this.”