IOWA - Muslim leaders in Iowa City have launched a campaign to educate their American neighbors about basic tenets of Islam as well as dispelling myths and misconceptions about their faith.
If you just listen to Fox News, you don't get the right idea, Abdullah Naayer, an Iowa City resident who's active at the mosque, told Iowa City Press-Citizen on Sunday, May 13.
Over the past months, Naayer and other leaders of the Muslim community have been engaged in activities to reach out to their community.
On Sunday afternoon, representatives from the city' mosque held an event to teach attendants about the basic tenets of Islam and answer questions.
Although many of the guests were Muslim, non-Muslims had been encouraged to attend.
Other outreach events were planned by the mosque as well, Naayer said.
Every month, leaders from the mosque meet with members of the local Christian community to create a supportive community.
It's just to get to know each other, have an understanding for each other and come to form a mutual respect and to be there for each other in the faith, he said.
Along with regular outreach events, Iowa City mosque opens its doors every week to non-Muslims willing to attend weekly Friday prayers, Naayer added.
We are very open to anybody coming and visiting, he said.
Anti-Muslim sentiments sharply grew over plans to build a mosque near the 9/11 site in New York, resulting in attacks on Muslims and their property.
Worse still, hostile rhetoric by Republican candidates against Islamic Shari`ah has led to demonize the sizable minority.
According to a report by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the University of California, Islamophobia in the US is on the rise.
A US survey has also 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.
Sunday's event was organized and led by an Iowa City convert, Marcus Espey, who decided to help in spreading the truth about Islam since he reverted to it last July.
Though Espey wasn't raised in any religion, he has been trying to find the true path years ago.
I always asked my mom, Why aren't we going to church? Why aren't I getting baptized?' Espey said.
Last July, a guest speaker at one of his classes at Kirkwood Community College talked about Islam.
Ever since, he became interested and started reading the Qur'an.
For some reason, my heart just lifted up and I was focusing on every word he was saying, Espey said.
Organizing events to educate others about Islam, he wanted to dispel misconception about his faith regarding alleged terrorism and mistreatment of women.
There are a lot of people that don't practice Islam the right way, Espey said.
That could misrepresent it.
Earlier this May, a census, by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies in Chicago, found that American Muslims almost doubled in the past decade.
It estimated that Muslims are now numbered at 2.6 million in 2010, from only one million in 2001.
Unofficial estimates put the number of Muslims in the US at between six to seven million.