Community rallies to stand in solidarity with Islamic Center of Spokane
When the Spokane Interfaith Council learned that anti-Muslim rallies were planned Oct. 10 at U.S. mosques and Islamic sites, they called for neighbors to stand with Spokane’s Muslim community.
|Admir Rasic with his wife Azra and daughter Najla.|
More than 100 people gathered on Saturday, Oct. 11 at the Spokane Islamic Center, 6411 E. 2nd Ave., to share food and stories, hear speakers, celebrate Spokane’s diversity and meet people. No protesters showed up.
Skyler Oberst, the Interfaith Council president, said all Americans, not just the faith community, need to share the joys and sorrows of their neighbors who include Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, Republicans, Democrats and atheists.
“If we focus only on our own group, we are not building community, but risk building walls,” he said.
Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich spoke, saying that those protesting that day at mosques “have forgotten that America is based on principles we are not living up to.”
He said the U.S. Constitution is designed to work for everyone, not just people in one category who hold the same beliefs. He is concerned about the deep divisions in America between right and left.
“America’s principles are about creating a circle of inclusion of everyone’s beliefs,” Ozzie said, “We cannot live life in ignorance, fear, anger and hate and have America survive.
Ayesha Malik, who attends the Islamic Center, was born in Lahore, Pakistan, and came to Anchorage, Alaska, at one. When she was nine, she became a citizen, and her family threw her a typical American birthday party.
Two years later, after Sept. 11, 2001, she became afraid. She and her family began overcompensating to hide being Muslim. She bleached her hair. Her mother took off her hijab. Her father shaved his beard.
“No matter how I look, sound or walk, I am Muslim,” she said. “Now I find hope realizing I’m not the only American Muslim with such a story.”
Ayesha moved to Spokane in 2010 with her half-Irish, half Filipino husband, who was in the Air Force. She began studying marketing and religious studies at Eastern Washington University in 2012, hoping in perhaps two decades to become the first woman imam.
Admir Rasic, a refugee from Bosnia who came to Spokane in 2000, said he wants his two-year-old daughter to grow up in a place that “will welcome her and celebrate her diversity, and where she can learn from others.”
The gathering filled him with hope because much hate speech against Muslims in the United States goes unchallenged. He called for those gathered to speak up “when you hear bigotry and Islamaphobia.”
Admir, who attends the Spokane Islamic Center and works with the Interfaith Council, told of watching TV and seeing terrible things happening to people.
“I thought that someone needed to do something,” he said.
Watching more violence reported the next evening, he realized he needed to do something.
“Now I have a platform. We need to stand with each other and make this a community of compassion,” said Admir.
Former Spokane imam Yasser Shahin read a prayer from opening verses of the Koran for Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful, to guide people on the straight path.
In closing, Skyler invited people to learn about Islam and to challenge hate, noting that “it’s hard to hate someone if they invite you in with a smile and a slice of cake.”
Copyright © November 2015 - The Fig Tree