Kansas City area Muslims said Friday their communities were horrified by the killings this week in San Bernardino, Calif., but are heartened that locally they had experienced outreach and support.
At the Al-Inshirah Islamic Center at 3664 Troost Ave., spokesman Zarrieff Osman said there was concern among the mosque’s 20 or so member families, but “so far, no signs of backlash.”
And in Johnson County, Mahnaz Shabbir, an adviser to the Kansas City Interfaith Council and to the Muslim group the Crescent Peace Society, said police had been responsive to security concerns, and neighbors had reached out to show support.
But still there are concerns in the Kansas City area and across the country. Television and tabloid reports often do not draw a distinction between violent radicals, such as those associated with the Islamic State and al-Qaida, and the religion of Islam and its followers, who have no ties to extremism.
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At the Al-Inshirah center, Osman said the mosque dated to 1953, so its members for the most part were American-born. And that could help show that Islam is much more “than many people’s vision of the faith as foreign.” Osman said he hoped Al-Inshirah, long involved in the community and charity events, could further understanding.
Just such an opportunity came Thursday, he said, when about a dozen people in a van borrowed from William Jewell College came down from Liberty “just to visit, to get to know us better and better understand our faith and how we respond” to such tragic events.
The mosque’s leader, Imam Bilal Hazziez, and others met with the group, about half students from the college and half older adults. The visit was organized by HateBusters, a group led by Ed Chasteen that for decades has promoted racial and cultural harmony and understanding.
Chasteen, a professor emeritus at the college and ambassador for his church, Second Baptist in Liberty, said he chose Al-Inshirah because it was the first to respond after he had called all the Islamic centers in the area.
“My plan is to visit every one … however many weeks it takes,” he said.
In Johnson County, Shabbir said the Overland Park police always were responsive when a terror attack elsewhere might stir safety concerns.
“They send extra patrols by Islamic centers whenever such incidents occur,” she said. “And so far nothing negative has occurred” at area mosques that she had heard of.
“Those who know us have been reaching out,” she added. “That’s always happened here, when something we have no control over has happened elsewhere. … There’s a big difference now from how it was after 9/11 .”
Besides police patrols and other support, Shabbir said, schools have “learned a lot about helping students feel safe.”
One of her children who attends a Blue Valley school, Shabbir said, was taken aside by a concerned teacher and told to be sure to let the teacher know if any harassment or bullying occurred.
Shabbir also got good response for a Facebook post early Thursday that said, in part: “The word terrorism and Islam are contradictory. One cannot be a true Muslim and terrorist at the same time.”
And Friday she said she grieved for all the families affected in San Bernardino, and was concerned for her fellow Muslims in this area if any backlash did develop. “We have been hit twice,” she said. “Once as Americans, and second as Muslims, because our faith is against this kind of violence.”