FORT SMITH – The Muslim community in Fort Smith, Arkansas, have expressed gratitude for their neighbors, who offered outpouring sympathy and support after a recent hate crime targeting their mosque, while stressing that education is the best solution to eradicate fear.
“We should dwell on the similarities and commonalities and not the differences of opinion,” Dr. Sahibzada A. Ahmed, a member of Masjid Al Salam mosque in Fort Smith, told Times Record on Sunday, March 5.
“We are Americans, too, and we love this country.”
The comments followed the recent arrest of three suspects who spray-painted the mosque last October.
The mosque serves about 150 Muslim families in the area, 35 members of who are physicians providing health-care in the community — 20 specialists and 15 general practitioners.
“We are a very positive contributor to Fort Smith as a whole,” Ahmed said.
“Islam is a peace-loving religion and we are peace-loving members of the community.”
Dr. Faisal H. Khan, a surgeon at Sparks Medical Center in Van Buren, pointed to recent threats and damages to Jewish synagogues in Missouri as other examples of dangerous activity and thoughts that result from phobias.
“This nation was built on freedom of religion,” Kahn said of the First Amendment in the US Constitution.
Amir Abdul Khaliq, one of the founders of the Fort Smith Islamic Center, said he converted to Islam more than 40 years ago as he sought answers to questions growing up in a Christian home.
“We approach Islam from an educational standpoint,” Khaliq said.
“We are there to learn about the rules of God. Islam fills the gaps for us and answers questions for us.”