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STAMFORD –Naveed Khan, of the Stamford Islamic Center, said that because of recent acts of bigotry and hatred, American Muslims feel isolated in their own communities.
Muslim children, he said, feel bullied by their peers.
But at an interfaith prayer vigil Tuesday night at First Congregational Church of Stamford, Khan said he finally felt a sense of solidarity.
In response to the recent protests outside of a Bridgeport mosque, the InterFaith Council of Southwest Connecticut organized a gathering to show Fairfield country Muslims that they aren’t alone. About 200 Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and other faiths attended the vigil.
“Why am I doing this?,” InterFaith Council President Rev. Kate Heichler said. “I’m simply standing with friends, with acquaintances and with some kind strangers who are getting picked on.”
She said she was taught to stand with the persecuted and said backing the Muslim community is simply following Jesus’ message to love thy neighbor.
Khan said it’s interfaith gatherings like Tuesday night’s that set an example to those who might fear Islam. Islam, he added, commands Muslims to be kind to their fellow man. It’s a commandment, he said, that the Muslim community is committed to.
At the vigil, Rev. Ron Sala of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Stamford, prayed that everyday people would, “Step from ignorance to knowledge, step from fear to faith” so that people of all creeds could set aside their differences and come together in unity.
Midhat Syet, of Stamford, said one way to build that bridge is by helping people understand Islam.
“I just want all of you to go back with one practical guideline,” he said as the vigil concluded. “In today’s society we always see such negative perceptions or messages which are based on hatred and are designed to instigate differences among religions and communities…Whenever you are faced with such a message please make an informed decision. Do not jump to conclusions.”
He said the number of peace-loving Muslims is overwhelming.
“It is so sad to see such a wonderful country, which was founded on the principles of unity and freedom of religion to have these principles now divide us,” Syed said.
Heichler said the role of the InterFaith Council is to take a stand against religious intolerance. For information on the organization and for a schedule of upcoming interfaith events visit its website here.
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