CHERRY HILL – Muslims in the South Jersey community in Cherry Hill are opening their doors to welcome neighbors wishing to learn about Islamic faith and traditions, dispel stereotypes, and break down barriers.
“This is a step forward to tell our neighbors about the rich traditions of the Islamic culture,” Muqaddas Ejaz, one of the event organizers, told Luxora Leader on Monday, February 5.
“There is a lot of hatred that people are exposed to related to Islam.”
The campaign, “Know your Muslim neighbor,” kicked off Saturday to promote cultural awareness for all races.
Event organizers estimate that there are about 6,000 Muslims in Cherry Hill, representing one percent of New Jersey’s population of 9 million.
In a community that largely embraces its Muslim members, Cherry Hill remained safe from hate crimes.
Yet, some women were still getting some stares or questions reflecting a lack of understanding.
“Sometimes I have people ask me ‘Are you legal here?’ ” said the Pakistani-born Ejaz, a naturalized citizen who came to the United States about 16 years ago.
In a bid to counter stereotypes, Ejaz and two other Muslim women, Nertila Cana, a member of the Islamic Center of South Jersey, and Evana Cooper, a member of the outreach committee at the Gracious Center of Learning and Enrichment Activities, made a proposal to the library to host Saturday’s event.
Elby Wang, a research and outreach librarian, welcomed the group.
“It’s very important to unify different communities,” said Wang, who was born in Taiwan.
The new campaign is modeled after a national campaign largely spearheaded by the Muslim American Society.
Farhat Biviji of Cherry Hill, a founding member of the group of South Jersey, said the event is a step in the right direction to dispel stereotypes.
“The more we come together, the more we know each and the better off we off as a nation,” Biviji said.
“This is an opportunity to create understand.”