About 200 people gathered at the Mosque of Nasreen in San Luis Obispo on Friday afternoon eager to do something “to make sure evil does not triumph,” as Rev. Jay Perry, president of the San Luis Obispo Ministerial Association, put it.
Speaking at a rally planned to show support for the local Islamic community, Perry, pastor at the SLO Adventist Church, said, “We are here today to stand in solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters who are increasingly coming under threat in this country. At the heart of every major world religion is the golden rule: That we must treat each other the way we would want to be treated in the same situation.”
Community and business leaders, local residents and members of other faith communities gathered in the mosque’s courtyard after the afternoon prayer had ended, some clutching homemade signs and holding them up high to face the constant stream of traffic on Walnut Street.
“These words stand for things I believe in and it seemed like a good opportunity to represent these values and support our diverse community,” said resident Will Jones, whose sign read: “Peace. Love. Compassion. Acceptance. No more fear.”
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America is not America without Muslims. Just as it’s not America without the gifts and talents of people of all faiths and ethnicities. America’s strength is in her diversity.
Gina Whitaker, board member of
Since the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino by suspected Islamic State group supporters, American Muslims have said they have felt threatened and worry about increasing prejudice and hostile political rhetoric against Muslims or Islam.
Although some members of the Islamic community in San Luis Obispo County said they have not received threats or been discriminated against since the attacks, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, recently released an initial report on the unprecedented backlash and discrimination targeting the nation’s Muslim community since the attacks.
Since that report was released, a possible arson fire was being investigated Friday at a Coachella mosque, a severed pig’s head was tossed at a mosque in Philadelphia, CAIR’s Capitol Hill headquarters was evacuated after a letter containing an unknown foreign substance was received in the mail, and leading Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States.
Some members of the county’s Islamic community said they are conducting outreach and education to both Muslims and non-Muslims. They want to encourage Muslims to get involved in their communities and be productive citizens, and they want to encourage non-Muslims to reach out, learn more about Islam and have compassion for Muslims who are victims of the Islamic State.
The faces here today will be remembered just as the faces of the people who stood for Selma, the people that walked with (Mahatma) Gandhi and the people that stood with MLK (Martin Luther King, Jr.). That your children and your childrens’ children will know that you stood in support of a minority that was oppressed.
Mus’ab Abdalla, imam at the Mosque of Nasreen
The rally was planned after some local activists, pastors, rabbis and community members showed an interest “in coming together to support the Muslim community given the heightened hateful rhetoric against the Muslim community recently,” said Naiyerah Kolkailah, president of the Islamic Society of San Luis Obispo County. She estimates about 200 to 300 Muslims live in San Luis Obispo and northern Santa Barbara counties.
Several religious leaders, a local activist and County Supervisor Adam Hill spoke at Friday’s rally.
This is an opportunity for all of us to look in our own community and see where hate and division is being spread and fight (it). Because we cannot let it take over.
San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill
Gina Whitaker, a board member of People of Faith for Justice and member of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of San Luis Obispo County, said she fears checking her Facebook feed in the morning to see if a new act of violence has occurred.
“I believe we must build a circle of protection around our Muslim brothers and sisters,” Whitaker said. “And we are, right now.”
Heidi Harmon, an environmental activist who ran for a state Assembly seat in 2014, made a few signs reading “Love is greater than fear.”
“This is what love looks like,” Harmon told the crowd. “So when your social media friends or your friends or your co-workers repeat some of this hateful rhetoric, it is essential that we stand up and have a voice — a voice of love and not of hate and racism and bigotry.”