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Interfaith group gathers to stand with Muslim community in response to political rhetoric

December 12th, 2015 Posted in Logan News, religion

By Katherine Taylor and Natalie Deaver
katherinedtaylor.com / thenataliejill.wordpress.com

Cars lined the streets as Cache Valley citizens of all faiths stood side-by-side for a common cause — showing their support for members of the local Muslim community at the Logan Islamic Center.

The crowds began to assemble at 12:30 p.m. As members of the faith arrived at the center for Friday prayer, they were greeted by people holding signs with messages of welcome and acceptance.

The gathering came in response to the Republican party’s presidential front-runner, Donald Trump, who called this week “for a total and complete shut down of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.”

Trump’s proposal has been met with widespread condemnation, but the real estate mogul and reality TV star remains the GOP’s frontrunner, and his idea for a ban was supported by more than half of fellow Republicans polled by CBS News on Wednesday and Thursday.

“Right now we are dealing with a political candidate who is suggesting that people — simply by the virtue of their religion — are dangerous to society,” said Bonnie Glass-Coffin, who helped orchestrate the event in response to Trump’s plan. “It is so incredibly hurtful and it does not serve the common good.”

“We really appreciate that the community is showing us their support and standing with us,” said Adam Alrowaiti, the president of the Logan Islamic Center committee. “After the statement of Donald Trump about preventing Muslims to immigrate, we’ve had a lot of support from other religions and the community and we really appreciate that.”

The event was organized by the Utah State University Interfaith Initiative and promoted by the Latter-day Saint Student Association, the Community of Good and the First Presbyterian Church of Logan, among many others groups. According to Glass-Coffin, who serves as the adviser for the Interfaith Initiative, this is exactly what the group hopes to promote.

“The goal of coming together is to show support for Muslims in Cache Valley,” Glass-Coffin said. “And to extend the mission of the USU Interfaith Initiative, which is to build bridges across faith communities and to create an environment of community, respect and appreciation for difference. We want to serve the common good, which is not being served by the current political rhetoric. There are a lot of people who have been hurt by it. So we’re coming together to show support.”

For those involved, sending a message of love and support was a shared goal.

“I want them to feel loved and accepted because they’re nice people,” said Eden Cope, a member of the Interfaith Initiative. “Most of them have nothing to do with these events going on. They just want to live their lives in peace and practice their religion. So I want them to feel welcome.”

“We want to help people feel like they have the right of religious expression,”  said Emily King, the campus relations secretary of the LDSSA. “We want them to know that we care too. Not just the Interfaith Initiative, but people in the Institute and from LDSSA want them to feel loved.”

Justin Bishop, a citizen of Logan who attended today’s gathering, and served in the Marine Corps during Operation Deseret Storm in 1991, said Trump’s ideas go against the values of the country he served.

“I don’t believe anyone should have to live in fear,” Bishop said. “I am tired of the media and the politicians telling me who I should hate. I served in the Marine Corps to protect American citizens regardless of their views and regardless of the color of their skin.”

Many in attendance felt it was important to show the community that they do not agree with the anti-Muslim political rhetoric which has been widely discussed throughout the media. According to David Tauber, a member of the Interfaith Initiative, the best way to counter the negative words of influential people is to speak out together.

“When politicians say things such as ‘we should put Muslims on a list’ or ‘we shouldn’t let any Muslims into the country’ this isolates a very important part of our community,” Tauber said. “We want to show that while some politicians take these unacceptable stances, we support our Muslim friends and neighbors.”

According to Glass-Coffin, Cache Valley is not the only place that is in need of religious tolerance.

On Saturday, the words “hunt camp?” were spray painted on the front of the Islamic Center of Twin Falls in Idaho.

Acts of vandalism and harassment on Islamic centers and mosques have been occurring more often as the number of terrorism attacks increase.

“What Trump is doing is trying to feed off people’s fears and promoting the stereotypes that people have against Muslims,” said Ayman Alafifi, a past president of the Logan Islamic Center. “He is just adding more fuel to the fire.”

Alafifi has been working with members of the Logan Islamic Center to educate its members on how to respond to such provocations.

“We are showing them how to engage in conversations without letting themselves get offended when they are asked questions from people who are trying to learn,” Alafifi said. “Sometimes people just don’t know how to ask the right questions so they come off a little bit offensive.”

Glass-Coffin said that assembling together as a community reaffirms their commitment to values such as hospitality, charity, compassion, respect and willingness to treat one another as fully functioning members of society.

As the event drew to a close, many expressed their gratitude for the outpouring of love and support.

“Demagogues don’t define what it is to be American. They don’t define what it is to be religious,” Eric Thalman told the crowd as he stood with his wife Aiya Sakr, thanking them for their support. “We’re better together. All of you have sent a powerful message of community and love.”



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