24 March, 2016
Some members of the Muslim community in the United States are speaking out against what they believe is an unfair fear of their religion.
They say the fear of Islam, what is often called Islamaphobia, is a growing problem. But, some members of the U.S. Muslim community also are taking action.
Saif Mazhar was born in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. He now works and prays on Chicago's northwest side at the Muslim Community Center.
He told VOA that he does not always feel accepted in the community.
"I guess people look at me differently," Mazhar said. Like if I was to go to like a store or restaurant, I kind of sometimes put my head down a little bit, so people don't look at me in like, a terroristic way, or ‘he looks like a terrorist.'"
Two-hundred-seventy kilometers south of Chicago is the city of Peoria, Illinois. Muslims are in the minority in Peoria. Over 43 percent of the population of Peoria is Christian. However, over 10 percent of those in the Central Illinois city are Muslims.
Imam Kamal Mufti is concerned about feelings against Muslims. He is a scholar and religious leader at the Islamic Foundation of Peoria.
Mufti said: "The comments [made to Muslims are] like ‘all Muslims are terrorists,' or that Muslims celebrate 9/11," which is September 11 – the day of a number of terrorist attacks in the United States - in 2001.
Mufti made a number of observations on religious relations to VOA. He said the hardest speech to listen to happens between Christian and Muslim children. He added that anti-Muslim speech reaches its highest point during election season.
Anti-Islamic rhetoric began this political season when presidential candidate Donald Trump called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States. Trump also said he would consider closing some U.S. mosques.
"I don't think a lot of people understand what that [anti-Muslim] rhetoric does to children, does to grownups, to women who choose to wear the headscarf and dress in more apparent religious garb," Mufti said.
But Mufti says he wants to change people's minds. Earlier this month, he opened the doors of his Islamic Center for an event including different religions.
The speakers' messages dealt with tolerance, peace and respect. The service produced a large crowd, which filled the center. Most attending were non-Muslims.
"Mosques are not unwelcome places; they are not closed places," said Mufti. What essentially Muslims do in mosques is pray, play, socialize and have fun."
Muslims are about one percent of the U.S. population. Throughout the world, however, the religion is growing. The Pew Research Center predicts that Muslims could equal the number of Christians worldwide by 2050.
I'm Christopher Jones-Cruise.
Kane Farabaugh wrote this story for VOA News. Jim Dresbach adapted it for Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.
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Words in This Story
suburbs – n. towns or other areas where people live in houses near a larger city
minority – n. a group of people who are different from the larger group in a country or area
scholar – n. a person who has studied a subject for a long time and knows a lot about it
rhetoric – n. language or speech that is intended to influence people and that may not be honest or reasonable
mosque – n. a building that is used for Muslim religious services
headscarf – n. a piece of cloth worn over a woman's or girl's head
garb – n. clothing