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Local Muslims gathered to share their thoughts and fears with the public.

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Mohammad Akhtar, president of Muslim Council of America, orlandoweekly.com

Two weeks after the shooting in San Bernardino California, in which a couple thought to have been inspired by ISIS killed 14 people, local Muslims gathered to share their thoughts and fears with the public.

A group, which included U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson and Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, listened as men and women talked about feeling threatened, bullied or looked at with suspicion. One woman said she was afraid to wear her hijab out in public after the San Bernardino shootings. A 17-year-old girl, who has lived in the United States her entire life, said she has a hard time making friends at school.

Over and over again, Muslim Americans are asked to prove their humanity and that they are not terrorists-in-waiting who hold extreme views of Islam, when the same isn’t asked of other religions, says Rasha Mubarak, the Orlando regional coordinator for the Council of American-Islamic Relations in Florida.

“When shootings like this happen, we just want to send our condolences and mourn with other Americans, but we’re put in the position of having to represent our religion,” Mubarak said.

Grayson told the crowd that the tendency by some, particularly Republican presidential hopefuls, to adopt extreme anti-Muslim views after incidents like the one in California plays right into extremists’ hands. Terrorists, he said, are trying to create a sense of terror that divides people and vilifies the Muslim community in the hope of creating even more extremism.

“Why are we allowing anti- Muslims to dictate the narrative of Muslim Americans?” Grayson asked.

That’s a good question.


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