MINNESOTA – Feeling the heat of increasing anti-Muslim sentiments, a coalition of US Muslim groups gathered on Saturday, January 9, in Minnesota to challenge Islamophobia and debug myths surrounding their faith.
“There is a great deal of hysteria which is being fueled, not only by these incidents, but a lot of information online, a lot of information being spread through social media that is building a very negative view about Muslims,” Jaylani Hussein, director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told MPR News.
CAIR is one of the organizers of the event held at the Islamic Center of Minnesota in Fridley.
Held under the banner, “Challenging Islamophobia”, the event was attended by about three dozen people.
Hussein said he hopes people who attended Saturday’s conference can help come up with new ways to improve outreach to the public at large.
The president of the Islamic Center of Minnesota, Shah Khan, said the event hoped to calm growing animosity towards the American Muslim community.
“I hope that there won’t be any backlash. But my fear is equal to any other US citizen living here.
“Everybody who has family, kids going to school, have jobs, and other issues in their life, they want to live a peaceful life. Everybody wants peace,” Khan added.
He added that such gatherings are organized to broaden understanding of and familiarity with Minnesota’s Muslim community.
Muslims make up 1% of America’s 322 million population, according to Pew Research center.
Muslims aged between 18 and 29 make about 44% of the American Muslim population, while people over 65 years make 5% of the Muslim population.
Saturday’s conference was the first in a series of conversations around Minnesota.
The idea was praised by John Medeiros, a Minneapolis immigration attorney and member of the University Baptist Church in Dinkytown.
“I have actually been trying to figure out ways in my own life to understand the Muslims around me. I have Muslim friends, I fasted a bit during Ramadan last year,” Medeiros said.
“And I do think that any little thing that opens our understanding is a good thing,” he said.
Anti-Muslim sentiments have reached an all-time high after the rise of the so-called Islamic State, formerly known as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Moreover, the Republican presidential candidates, such as Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson, have added to increasing anti-Muslim sentiments.
Facing growing attacks on Muslims, CAIR has launched a new website, Islamophobia.org, to monitor and challenge the growing anti-Muslim bigotry.
In 2014, CAIR published “Know Your Rights and Responsibilities” pocket guide that tells American Muslims to report any actual knowledge of criminal activity without being asked by law enforcement authorities.