WASHINGTON — In the wake of the terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, a meeting was held at the Muslim Community Center in Silver Spring, Maryland, to hear the concerns of local Muslims.
It was put on by the Montgomery County Committee on Hate/Violence, which works to stamp out hate through community education, advocacy, collaboration and legislation.
The point of the meeting was to listen to concerns and problems in order to later come up with ways to tackle them.
“I really feel so grateful to you for allowing us to have our meeting here and for opening your community home to us,” said Committee Chair Lorraine Lee-Stepney.
“We can’t allow the irrational, disrespectful and biased opinions of a few who may be running for political office in our country to define or dictate our relations with those of the Muslim faith who we call friend, colleague or neighbor,” she added.
Audience members shared concerns about the way Muslims are both portrayed and treated in schools, and a need for more positive coverage of Muslims by the news media.
Members of the committee urged people to report any bad experiences that they think may be in response to their faith.
“If there’s an incident … you feel is hate generated or someone is making a slur, it may not be a crime but it’s a serious incident and you should report that as well,” said committee member Terry Vann.
One man in the audience spoke about the mood in the county’s Muslim community.
“This is the first time in my 30 years of living in Montgomery County that the atmosphere of fear, anger, frustration — all of those things — is playing in this community whether people say that or not. Really, people are mostly very afraid of what’s going to happen next.”
After several people voiced concerns about security surrounding Friday prayers, Montgomery County Police Officer Sharif Hidayat assured the audience that he prays at the Muslim Community Center on Fridays.
“So you’ve got some free security coming,” he said, to hearty applause.