Islamic leaders raise awareness
ORLANDO — Valencia’s Peace and Justice Initiative helped organize an educational out- reach event in partnership with the Islamic Soci- ety of Central Florida on Friday.
The violent protests that erupted last month as the result of an online film that negatively de- picted the Islamic Prophet Muhammad prompt- ed the outreach. The purpose of the event was to open lines of communication and dispel myths that lead to misunderstandings and violence.
“So, as American Muslims, we felt that the response here, instead of reacting negatively to the insulting movie that we should do an educa- tional campaign to reach out to our neighbors in the community,” said ISCF president Imam Mu- hammad Musri.
Following last month’s embassy attack, the Islamic Society of Central Florida issued a state- ment on Sept. 12 condemning the criminal attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. They also offered prayers and condolences to the fami- lies and loved ones of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and the three staff members who lost their lives.
The ISCF rose from humble beginnings, when a small group of families held prayer services in a small trailer on Goldenrod Road back in the early 1970s. The group eventually purchased property on the street and began to build what would be- come the first official mosque in Central Florida.
Bassem Chaaban, the ISCF director of opera- tions, gave a guided tour of the mosque. During a short question and answer segment, Chaaban explained when and why they pray and the rea- soning behind their religious beliefs.
“We believe education is the greatest weapon to eradicate extremism, radicalization, racism and discrimination,” said Chaaban.
The group does community outreach on a regular basis via open house events. Friday night offered a new event that focused on Valencia stu- dents and faculty. The night hinged on a presen- tation and the sharing of a free dinner of Middle Eastern cuisine.
“Peace and Justice is trying to bring people to- gether to focus on our commonalities and not our differences,” said Yasmeen Qadri, professor of edu- cation and social sciences at Valencia’s East Campus.
A highlight of the event was the number of people in attendance; hundreds came out to par- ticipate. It wouldn’t have been possible if not for the interest and initial outreach of Valencia pro- fessor of humanities, Rachel Allen.
“This is really for everybody, clearly it’s about educating our students, but I think it’s about edu- cating all of us,” said Allen. “Because we are a com- munity college it’s important that we all have an understanding of our neighbors in the community.”
Many in attendance openly stated that they felt inspired after receiving information about the religious beliefs of Muslims. This event wasn’t about recruitment; its primary goal was educa- tion and working towards peace through greater understanding.
For more information on the Islamic Society of Central Florida and its upcoming events, visit their website at www.iscf.org.