Quakers and Muslims discuss IslamophobiaBy Yasmine Regester / May 20, 2016
The Greensboro community engaged in a group discussion on Muslim experiences in North Carolina on Sunday, May 15 at The New Garden Friends Meeting House.
Quakers from Friends Meeting, New Garden Friends Meeting, and First Friends joined families from Greensboro Mosques in identifying avenues toward making North Carolina a more peaceful state, as well as ways to counter a public narrative that promotes fear, hate and discrimination.
The group discussed the history of Muslims in North Carolina, recognizing their diversity, and their past experiences and current issues. The Islamic Center of Greensboro estimates there are more than 500 practicing Muslims in Guilford County.
“For all those who aren’t familiar with Greensboro’s Muslim community, I hope some of those harmful stereotypes and myths are dispelled. I hope this meeting reenergizes people to carry on the work of compassion, justice and peace throughout our community,” said Max Carter with New Garden Friends Meeting.
With scrutiny of Muslims and immigrants at an all-time high in the United States, these groups also discussed media politics and the impact on Muslims in North Carolina.
According to a 2015 Gallup Political Poll, a national polling Web site, Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump had an 11 percent increase in voter ratings after he made a public comment about banning Muslims from entering the United States.
“Islamophobia is a billion-dollar industry,” said Wasif Qureshi, former president of the Greensboro Islamic Center and organizer of the 2015 International Day of Peace Festival; adding that corporations and politicians thrive on the fear of Muslims. “There are more orphans in Afghanistan than from World War I and World War II combined,” said Qureshi.
Participants shared the experiences of their families and children in neighborhoods and schools.
Ghaisha Yahaya-Mohamed, an immigrant and refugee community advocate, relocated to North Carolina 14 years ago from the West African country, Niger. She considers Greensboro her home.
“I am so proud of who I am,” said Mohamed. “There will be people who fear you and may try to hurt you with words, but I will continue to not be ashamed of who I am and teach my children to be proud to be Muslim.”
Deonna Kelli Sayed, a Yes! Weekly news writer and practicing Muslim, noted that younger generations of Muslims are more open to speaking about their culture.
“They’ve stopped apologizing for who they are. I believe it is galvanizing people to have conversations about identity in their own homes,” said Sayed. “This political movement is forcing us to clarify our voice.”
Moving forward, the groups hope to expand their meetings to include other faiths and organizations, find ways to collaborate on the International Day of Peace and create initiatives to engage youth across faiths.
“I hope the work done here today doesn’t just end with this discussion. We have to continue to work together,” said Qureshi. “I think it’s in our best interest to form an organization that goes past discovery, and develops into projects and initiatives that can unite us as a people.”