Amid a presidential race where one of the candidates has called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States, Islamic scholars gathered in the Triangle on Saturday to address Islamophobia.
More than a dozen scholars met at the Apex Mosque for the two-day conference called a Seerah, which means to bring peace and blessings upon the Prophet Muhammed, Conference. The conference addressed topics that included the media’s portrayal of Islam and how to handle what they call hateful rhetoric.
“I think the role of a conference like this one is, first of all, to bring it to our mind that we are not the other,” said Dr. Ihab Saad of Northern Kentucky University
The speakers aim to empower Muslims to rise above fear, suspicion and mistrust they could encounter from non-Muslims.
Saad said Muslim-Americans have a responsibility to combat misperceptions.
“I believe the best cure for Islamophobia is for Muslims to be more involved in the community, for people to know who the Muslims are. They are their neighbors, their coworkers, their kid’s teachers, soccer coaches, etc., so we are just like everyone else in this society,” Saad said.
The conference does not endorse any political candidates, but Asif Ansari, a member of the Apex Mosque, said recent political discourse has been damaging.
“Compared to when I was growing up in the 80s, it seems we are going backwards and in those regards, that is very concerning to me. That’s not what this country stands for,” Ansari said.
University of North Carolina student Rsalma Rezk said anti-Muslim rhetoric has been a rallying cry for her peers and that Muslims need to be more engaged than ever.
“I’ve seen many of my friends join political campaigns and their voices are being heard,” Rezk said. “At the same time, others have to listen, so it’s a two-way street.”
Organizers said the goal is to teach Muslims how the Prophet Mohammed dealt with extremism, violence and hate. They hope to make the conference an annual event.