FORT MILL – Thousands of people in South Charlotte, North Carolina, were invited to attend the first “Meet your Muslim neighbor” event on Saturday, February 13, which was designed to clear up misconceptions of the Muslim community.
“There are people around this mosque who are not Muslims, we want people to feel secure and safe from us and we want to feel safe and secure from them,” Mohammed Haron Sait told WBTV.
At the event planned by the American Islamic Outreach Foundation, Sait discussed the 2016 Republican presidential primary taking place in South Carolina next week.
He also referred to anti-Muslim tirades led by Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump, who has suggested banning Muslims from entering the US.
“You’re going to have more World Trade Centers,” said Trump at a previous rally.
“It’s gonna get worse, folks. We have to look at mosques. We have to respect mosques. But yes, we have to look at mosques. We have no choice, we have to see what is happening because something is happening in there.”
Sait said he hopes the event would help stop stereotypes sweeping through US.
“Islamophobia is on the rise, unfortunately. We don’t want that to be the case. We love this country and we wish good for this country,” he added.
The event attendants praised its idea for bringing together two different worlds.
“It’s just like I would be going out to tea with my friends or out with my co-workers, we talk about our friends, our families,” mother of four and non-Muslim Kriss Carlstrom said.
“If you don’t know something, you will be fearful of it. So, we want to make sure that don’t know factor doesn’t exist anymore,” Sait said.
Theology major Justin Frantz, who hopes to be a pastor one day, came to the event to learn more about Islam.
“You can’t play on people’s fears and ignorance which is what politicians are good at these days,” Frantz said.
“If you don’t get out and try and learn, then you’re going to stay in fear your entire life and that’s not a way to live,” he added.
Later this month, a similar event is planned in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to express solidarity with the Muslim community.
Titled, “Meet Your Muslim Neighbor Potluck”, the event is planned on Wednesday, February 17th, at the Merton Center’s headquarters.
Earlier in December, a “Love Thy Neighbor” event was held between Sharkas and Merton Center staff person Gabriel McMorland and was hosted by Jewish Voice for Peace in Pittsburgh.
Later on, the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh hosted a Solidarity Potluck in January with Conflict Kitchen, in an event which attracted 270 people.