CAIRO - Receiving a string of hate mails from radical Christian groups, religious leaders at a US church have decided to move ahead with its plan to hold an annual Muslim popular event, denouncing the mails as hateful.
The congregation received as "some of the most vile, mean-spirited emails I've ever read in my life," All Saints Church in Pasadena Rev. Ed Bacon told Los Angeles Times on Friday, December 7.
"When we scheduled this event, we had absolutely no anticipation that we would have this kind of response," Bacon said, adding that none of the emails made actual threats.
Church officials said they have received more than two dozen emails from individuals condemning All Saints Episcopal Church for hosting the 12th Annual Muslim Public Affairs Council Convention.
The annual convention, the first to be held in a Christian house of worship, is set to take place on Dec. 15 with 1,000 attendees.
Holding a news conference on Thursday, church officials produced three of the "close to 30" emails they received.
They described many of the others as too "vituperative" to release to the public.
At least one email accused the parish of "providing cover and legitimacy to an organization dedicated to overthrowing the Constitution, and substituting Shari`ah law."
Another email warned parishioners to not "be gullible suckers."
Religious leaders at the church blamed the Washington-based Institute on Religion and Democracy for prompting the hate mails.
"Yet again, the Islamists are taking advantage of naive Christians with a desire to show off their tolerance," Ryan Mauro wrote in the article.
Salam al-Marayati, president of the Los Angeles-based Muslim council, said his organization is working with the Department of Homeland Security, FBI and local authorities to ensure the Dec. 15 event is safe.
The gathering is expected to focus on the state of the American Muslim community.
"The hatemongerers have made our convention relevant, so we saved on our marketing budget, so some of the money was transferred to extra security," al-Marayati said, half jokingly.
"We are taking extra precautions, but at this point there is no threat to the convention."
The church religious leaders rejected hate mails as demonizing the American Muslim minority and reflecting a growing Islamophobia in the community.
"So dripping with vitriol and the worst possible demonization of people of other faiths," Susan Russell, senior associate at All Saints Church.
"What they offered us was basically a window into the ugly underbelly of Islamophobia."
Reverend Bacon agreed, adding that the emails were a tragic reminder of the political and cultural realities of contemporary America.
"The fact is our life in America is transacted in a culture of fear, and transacted in a culture of hatred; and a politics of fear and a politics of hatred," Bacon said.
Bacon said he hoped to convert the negative attention from the emails into something positive for interfaith relations.
"We are very happy to have this occasion to put on a display of our relations and stand in solidarity," Bacon said.
The church move, however, was praised by US Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) for bridging interfaith understanding.
"I was deeply distressed to learn of the hateful and vitriolic messages that the church has received," Schiff said in a statement.
"Yet, these odious emails will only increase our determination to fight bigotry and increase understanding."
US Muslims, estimated at between six to eight million, have been sensing a growing hostility following a hearing presented by Republican representative Peter King on what he described as radicalization of US Muslims.
A recent report by CAIR, the University of California and Berkeley's Center for Race and Gender found that Islamophobia in the US is on the rise.
Another US survey had also revealed that the majority of Americans know very little about Muslims and their faith.
A recent Gallup poll had found that 43 percent of Americans Nationwide admitted to feeling at least a little prejudice against Muslims.