Indivisible Columbus held a “Meet your Muslim neighbor” event in an effort to “build bridges” between the diverse groups of people represented within the city.
Organizers with the group say their goals are diversity, tolerance, and equality. They say they host a meeting once a month, and this month’s meeting focused on interfaith understanding. They say they hope this open meeting will put some misconceptions about the Muslim community to rest.
“At a time in America where we’re being pulled apart by political divisions and cultural divisions, it’s really important for people of different faiths and backgrounds to come together and talk. Just dialogue-ing helps to break down bigotry and build bridges,” Edward Ahmend Mitchell tells News Three’s Jessalyn Adams.
Mitchell is an attorney in Atlanta, and the head of Georgia’s CAIR (Council on American Islamic Relations) chapter.
Valerie Haskins reached out to Mitchell after she visited the Islamic Center of Columbus. She says she went to the mosque with other women on two different Sundays.
“We just had a dialogue and started getting to be friends with each other, and basically, seeing we had more in common than not.”
Haskins says this is the way acceptance and togetherness begin, and she’s determined to encourage the community to do away with hate.
“I have a passion for diversity and inclusiveness, and you know, we are all human and we just need to love each other and get along.”
Mitchell and Haskins both say everyone should be treated with respect while learning to appreciate differences and finding common ground.
“Interfaith dialogue is not about anyone changing religion. It’s about learning about a different religion and learning to respect and appreciate the differences,” Mitchell says while addressing misconceptions about events like today.
Mitchell says he focuses on transparency and will always answer the hard questions. He says there are many negative perceptions of the Muslim faith, and he is ready to put those at ease.
During the meeting, a woman asked about referring to terrorists as radical Islamists.
Mitchell answered with examples. He readdressed the question with News Three saying this: “Just as we would never call the Westboro Baptist Church an accurate representation of Christianity, just like we would never call Timothy McVeigh an accurate representation of Patriotism, we should not call terrorist groups Muslim in any way. What they [terrorists] are doing violates our faith, just like the KKK violated the rules of Christianity.”
Mitchell reiterated that today is not about agreeing, but about building relationships.
“Learn something about your neighbors. You don’t have to agree with them, but at least you can build bridges of understanding.”
Indivisible Columbus says that today’s turnout of 120 people exceeded expectations and that this is the largest meeting yet.