An Islamic center and mosque in Worcester is taking a proactive approach to confronting Islamophobia.
The Worcester Islamic Center is holding an event Saturday that it's calling "Meet a Muslim Day." It's designed to get members of the public who may not know much about Islam — beyond the headlines — to learn about the faith practiced by about one-fifth of the world's population.
The center's administrator, Mona Ives, who's originally from West Boylston, came up with the idea for the event several years ago but says recent world events put it front and center. She spoke with WBUR's All Things Considered host Lisa Mullins.
On the timing and reason for the event:
After the Paris attacks [last] year, we started to feel that the atmosphere changed to a very negative one toward Muslims. And unfortunately instead of just being able to mourn with the rest of the world, we were sort of put in a place where we had to be on the defensive. And I sort of, you know, drowned in my melancholy for a few days before realizing that it's not the time to hide, it's not the time to be scared. Now is the time to reach out and ask our neighbors, friends, co-workers and classmates to come down — and the general public as well — to meet us and talk with us and let us allay their fears and their concerns, and let them know that we're human beings who just so happen to follow the religion of Islam.
On feeling she has to defend her faith:
It's unfortunate because I think the minority of people are getting the majority of press. You know, Muslims do good things every day of the week. We give to the poor, we're kind and compassionate, we take a lot of care into our education and treating our neighbors nicely. And unfortunately none of that ever makes the news, right? We're very sad and heavy-hearted that we have to do this, but we'll do what we have to so that our neighbors and our fellow citizens know what we're about. And we really hope that folks walk away knowing that we're not the boogeyman, and there isn't really a lot of cause for the type of fear-mongering and concern that we see coming from some of the politicians and, you know, loud voices out there.
This segment aired on January 6, 2016.