Five days after Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, and five days after hate crimes against minorities began to skyrocket, a church in Fredericksburg, Va. welcomed a Muslim speaker to the pulpit to speak for an hour and a half.
Let us unpack that sentence a bit. Donald Trump, the man behind the Muslim ban proposal, was elected president on Nov. 8. In the ten days since his election, there have been hundreds of reports of “hateful harassment or intimidation” reported to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Yet, in light of these tensions, a mere five days after the election, Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University, spoke to a full house from the pulpit at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Fredericksburg, VA, a community which has faced great interfaith tension in recent months, on the importance of building interfaith bridges in a time of great division. And the program ended in not one, but two standing ovations.
Ahmed’s talk in Fredericksburg, first proposed in June, was a direct response to a local conflictthat broke out in November 2015. The thirty-year-old Islamic Center of Fredericksburg had sought to build a new mosque to address the needs of a growing congregation. But the Spotsylvania County zoning board meeting convened to discuss the mosque’s construction plans quickly turned heated. The meeting, which took place in the days following the terrorist attacks in Paris, concluded with shouts and taunts towards the Muslim community, with one man even going on to yell, “Nobody, nobody, nobody wants your evil cult in this county.” The Islamic Center rescinded its proposal in August.
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