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Community members gathering to discuss Islamophobia in Mid-Missouri

Following the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernadino, some U.S. and Missouri political figures are speaking out against the Islamic community.

In response, the Mid-Missouri Fellowship of Reconciliation and Mid-Missouri Peaceworks have organized a community dialogue in efforts to counter Islamophobia.

“We are deeply concerned by the level of Islamophobia and violence around the country,” said Mark Haim, Director of Mid-Missouri Peaceworks. “We’ve seen mosques that have been bombed, we’ve seen people attacked. We don’t feel this is a rational or reasonable response to some heinous crimes that have been committed.”

Community members are invited to an open dialogue meeting followed by a prayer observation at the Islamic Center for Central Missouri Wednesday evening.

Just recently a Muslim University of Missouri student, Fatma El-Walid, filed a lawsuit against a former professor for “racist and sexist” comments.

Faizan Syed, Executive Director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations St. Louis chapter, held a press conference Wednesday morning to discuss her case. He said Islamophobia is spreading across the country.

“The greatest victims are American-Muslims and especially Muslim women,” he said. “So Fatma and others who actually wear the head scarf are easy targets and I assume that’s why she was targeted in this particular case as well.”

Nadia Irsheidat, a Muslim woman and soon-to-be graduate student at the university, said she hasn’t experienced many acts of discrimination at MU or in Columbia. However, she said will occasionally hear rude comments.

“I can’t speak for everyone, but I can say there is that fear that moves people sometimes and probably the lack of knowledge,” she said. If people are willing to learn more, they wouldn’t be scared and no incidents would happen.”

Event organizers said the purpose is to spread awareness about the Islamic faith and community.

JamilAl-Wekhain, a Peace Studies professor at MU, said the feeling of Islamophobia alienates Muslims from the rest of the community.

“I would encourage every Muslim here and every Muslim in the U.S. to be more courageous,” he said. “To be brave and just tell them about yourself. You are American first. You are American-Muslim.”

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