Luncheon Brings Groups together for Better Understanding of Religion
By   Emily Bohatch

It was a child's story that prompted Lancaster resident Angie Kiger to reach out to the Muslim community.

A now-retired teacher friend of hers told Kiger about a former student, a nine-year-old boy, who was being bullied because of his faith.

He came up to his teacher and said, "I’m not a terrorist, I’m not a terrorist," Kiger said. “It just broke my heart.”

Given the current political climate, in which the Republican frontrunner has suggested banning Muslims from entering the country, Kiger wanted to understand more about the Muslim religion — more than she could learn in Fairfield County.

Kiger, who just recently moved back to Lancaster from Hilliard, contacted Imran Malik, president of the Board of Directors at the Noor Islamic Cultural Center in Hilliard, to see what kind of events they could offer to members of her community who had never been exposed to the Muslim faith.

The result of that contact was a lunch that attracted about three dozen people to the Noor center to mingle and to discuss issues affecting Muslims in central Ohio.

“The purpose of these meetings is to fix misunderstandings and make a spirit to work together and live in peace together,” Inam Khokhar, a previous board member at the Noor Center, said.

Malik said interfaith efforts tend to take root more successfully in metropolitan areas.

“The suburban interfaith (movement) has always been a more alienated concept,” he said.

Still, Kiger's group got a better idea of what life is like for members of Noor.

They learned, for example, that it's not easy for Muslims even in a fairly diverse area such as central Ohio.

Noor member Wahida Abaza said her 10-year-old daughter had been harassed by fellow students over the topic of Donald Trump's candidacy.

“My daughter, somebody said to her, ‘When Trump becomes president, your family might have to leave,’" Abaza said.

"And she said, ‘Where would we go?'’"

Kiger set up her group in hopes that lunch meetings like the one on Thursday might prevent similar encounters in the future.

“It’s very difficult to demonize people when you get to look into their eyes and get to know them,” said Sandra Anderson, a member of Ohio University’s Board of Trustees, who attended the lunch. - The Columbus Dispatch    


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