IOWA CITY - Muslim leaders in Iowa City have launched a campaign to educate their American neighbors about the basic tenets of Islam and dispel 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, told Iowa City Press-Citizen.
Over the past months, Naayer has joined hands with other Muslim community leaders to reach out to their society.
On Sunday, representatives from the city' mosque held an event to teach attendants about the basic tenets of Islam and answer questions about the religion.
Other outreach events were also planned by the mosque, Naayer said.
Every month, mosque leaders 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, the mosque also opens its doors every week to non-Muslims willing to attend the weekly Friday prayers, Naayer added.
We are very open to anybody coming and visiting, he said.
Anti-Muslim sentiments sharply grew in the United States 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.
A recent report by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the University of California said that Islamophobia is on the rise in the US.
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.
The outreach event was organized and led by an Iowa City convert, Marcus Espey, who decided to help in spreading the truth about Islam since he embraced it last July.
Though Espey was not raised in any religion, he has been trying to find the true path for years.
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 Noble 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, Espey wanted to dispel misconceptions about violence and mistreatment of women in Islam.
There are a lot of people that don't practice Islam the right way, Espey said.
That could misrepresent it.
Earlier this month, 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, however, put the number of Muslims in the US at between six to seven million.