WRAL TV

Raleigh church tackles Islamophobia discussion

Posted January 13, 2016 10:46 a.m. EST
Updated January 13, 2016 10:31 p.m. EST

Until recently, we had never heard the word Islamophobia. It’s a word created out of the fear of what some term “radical Islam” and the result of a handful of Muslims worldwide who have killed in the name of Islam.

The fears those attacks have generated across the country and here in the Triangle are real, and on Wednesday night at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, WRAL's David Crabtree facilitated a discussion led by Pullen Senior Pastor Rev. Nancy Petty and Muslim community leaders, with input from Pullen congregants, area Muslims and the public. The forum marked the start of a discussion of ways non-Muslims and Muslims can live in the same area and learn not to fear each other.

Petty remembered a service held at the church on the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, when Muslims were invited to attend and pray.

"As soon as the service was over that evening, I immediately began receiving hate mail," she recalled.

Moments like that service led to events like Wednesday's discussion.

""It is time we become united to say no to the politics of fear," said Monsoor Cheema.

Muslims and non-Muslims took to the stage together- getting to know ech other by asking tough questions.

"If Muslims were as they appear on the 6 o'clock news, I would not want to be within 100 yards of one. But, the reality is, we aren't," said Emam Mohammed AbuTaleb.

Emams say Muslims respect the value of every life. They are expected to support their neighbors but, as in other religions, some have distorted that.

"There are radical Muslims, they are the minority, and we would like to weed them out," said Mohammed Elgamal with the Raleigh Islamic Association

In the meantime, many Muslims said they can be targeted in the community.

"People who are even perceived as Muslims are victims of attack," said Cheema.

There are plans for more meetings and larger meetings to educate teh Triangle about their Muslim neighbors.

Pullen Memorial Baptist Church has a long tradition of progressive stands on social issues and has been active in support of civil rights for African-Americans and other minorities.