SUFFOLK COUNTY, NY – Known for his anti-Muslim hearings, New York Representative Peter King visited one of the largest mosques in New York Friday, April 25, receiving an unexpected warm welcome from the mosque’s congregation.
"I was actually surprised" by the welcome, said King, who addressed nearly 1,000 congregants at Masjid Darul Qur'an mosque for about 10 minutes, News Day reported.
"I'm surprised by the reception for me, but not surprised by the hospitality of the people."
The Republican representative has stirred controversies before for broad statements linking Islam to terrorism.
In 2011, King held congressional hearings on what he called Muslim "radicalization."
In 2007, he said, "There are too many mosques in this country, there's too many people who are sympathetic to radical Islam," though he has said his comments were taken out of context.
In a bid to turn a new leaf in tense relations, Muslim leaders invited King to attend prayer services at Masjid Darul Quran, the Muslim Center of Long Island in Bay Shore, an invitation welcomed by King.
During the visit, King shared a meal with the mosque's leaders and said he would return soon for a town hall-style meeting.
"I think we're going to understand each other better," King said.
"I don't expect anyone to change their position. I'm not changing mine. But I think we can find ways to work together."
King’s hearing was widely condemned as stigmatizing the Muslim minority in the US.
The hearing also drew fire from US officials and Muslims for stigmatizing the whole Muslim community in the country.
Since 9/11, US Muslims, estimated between six to seven million, have become sensitized to an erosion of their civil rights, with a prevailing belief that America was stigmatizing their faith.
A US survey has revealed that the majority of Americans know very little about Muslims and their faith.
A recent Gallup poll, however, found 43 percent of Americans Nationwide admitted to feeling at least “a little” prejudice against Muslims.
Inviting King to visit their mosque, Muslim leaders said they believe the visit will lead to a new relationship with King, a member and former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.
"I think it went very well. This will lead to future dialogue," said Hafiz Rehman, a pediatrician and leader of the mosque who helped arrange King's visit.
"I think already I can sense that he regrets his own past statements."
Mosque president Roshan Shaikh, in introducing King to the congregation, repeated some of the congressman's most controversial comments about Muslims.
"I know we have all heard some tough statements from him, which we have not liked," Rehman told the congregation.
"But the welcome he has seen today is going to change him."
King told his listeners that he will not back down from past assertions that police surveillance is needed in Muslim communities.
“The fact that there are people within the community who are evil and bad does not reflect on the entire community," King told the congregation.
"But there is an obligation on that community to cooperate fully with law enforcement."
Despite some of King's previous comments, people gathered at the mosque greeted him warmly, asserting that their religion condemns violence.
Islam "is against all forms of terrorism," said Yousuf Syed, a doctor and a member of the board of trustees at the Islamic Association of Long Island, a mosque in Selden.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net - Read full article here
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