PENNSYLVANIA – A Muslim association in Lehigh Valley, eastern Pennsylvania, has welcomed more than 1000 non-Muslim students to their building, educating them on the true meaning of Islam and sharing diverse Muslim culture.
“Our doors are always open,” Aqeel Syed, the outreach director of the Muslim Association of the Lehigh Valley, told The Brown and White on Thursday, April 6.
Syed was speaking as he welcomed 48 junior students from Easton school district.
Students attended the prayer service, lunch and finally a question and answer session about Islam.
“I would rather you get your answers here than from Google, Fox News or CNN,” Syed said as the students hesitantly laughed.
The Muslim Association of the Lehigh Valley, or MALV, was established 30 years ago in Emmaus.
In 2016, they served 2,500 meals at the St. Paul Lutheran Church soup kitchen. They held blood drives with the American Red Cross. They provided school supplies for more than 200 students in Allentown.
Last year, the center welcomed more than 1000 visitors from Lehigh Valley residents.
Based in a 14,000 square-foot building in Whitehall, the association also works to clarify misconceptions about Islam.
The efforts came after the FBI’s “Hate Crime Statistics, 2015” report listed a 67 percent rise in hate crimes against Muslims from 2014 to 2015.
According to the report, there were 257 anti-Muslim attacks in the year.
In the five days in November after Donald Trump was elected president, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported more than 30 anti-Muslim incidents.
“It just shows you even though (Trump) may have won the election, most Americans don’t support what he’s doing,” Syed said.
“I think that’s why people got the opportunity to vent and say, ‘We don’t support this. We do support the Muslims. We support the Jews. We support the Christians. We support the people of faith or no faith, but they should be given their equal rights and their fair rights as the Constitution dictates. Those rights that every American has because we’re American citizens.’ We’re green card holders. We contribute to society.”