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US Interfaith Group Turns Hate into Opportunity for Tolerance

IRMO – A Columbia Muslim group will host on August 30 an event to demystify Islam, in a positive reaction to recent Islamophobic Facebook posts by mayor Hardy King of Irmo, South Carolina, CS Monitor reported on August 28.

Hosted by the Peace and Integration Council of North America (PICNA) in the State of Columbia, the event, ‘Demystifying Islam: Understanding Your Muslim Neighbors,’ will fill part of the Irmo Town Hall with a library of resources for locals to learn about Muslim traditions.

Books such as the Holy Qur’an and other literature on the contributions of Muslims to society will be on display, followed by a panel discussion and Q&A session.

PICNA’s event was triggered by the Mayor Hardy King of Irmo in South Carolina who posted Islamophobic Facebook posts a few months ago. Back then, he stood by his posts but said he didn’t know much about Islam.

That was when PICNA’s president, Chaudhry Sadiq, reached out to King, inviting him to an end-of-Ramadan celebration at a Columbia mosque, Masjid Noor Ul Huda, where Sadiq is president.

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While there, Sadiq said he pitched the idea of hosting a “demystifying Islam” event, and King agrees; “It was mutual. It was mutually benefiting, it was mutually rewarding,” Sadiq recalls.

“I hope that people that come will come with the open heart and open mind to understand,” King said.

“I hope they’ll go, ‘Oh, OK, I didn’t know that,’ because I didn’t know that.”

Sadiq and King will be joined by Mary Kennerly, board member of Interfaith Partners of SC (IPSC), and Cheryl Nail, vice chair of IPSC.

Kennerly is a retired District 5 Christian educator and has lived in Irmo for 45 years, while Nail is the community relations director of the Columbia Jewish Federation.

PICNA has hosted similar events in South Carolina’s Midlands area before.

In December 2016, it hosted an Islam informational session in Columbia with Mayor Steve Benjamin.

“There are up to 15,000 Muslims in the Midlands, the middle region of South Carolina. In Columbia alone, there are five mosques,” Sadiq informed.

According to the 2010 report of the Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA), Muslims formed less than 2% of the total population of South Carolina State which numbered as much as five million people according to last year’s estimate.

In 2014, Islam represented 0.9% of the total population in the US which numbers about 325.7 million people according to 2017 estimates.