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Faith Over Fear Roadshow Exposes "Islamaphobia Industry"


Monday, November 13, 2017   

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. — Local faith leaders have been touring cities in Washington, exposing what they say is a well-funded industry focused on spreading Islamaphobia.

Aneelah Afzali, executive director of the American Muslim Empowerment Network - an initiative from the Redmond mosque the Muslim Association of Puget Sound - teamed up with Pastor Terry Kyllo of Neighbors in Faith. They have been touring since September, as the "Faith Over Fear Roadshow," inviting communities to speak up about their feelings toward Muslims and Islam.

Afzali said much of the fear and hate directed at Muslims is rooted in a lack of knowledge about the faith.

"Unfortunately, the majority of our fellow Americans do not personally know a Muslim and do not know much about Islam,” Afzali said. "And I tell people that's a recipe for disaster at a time when there are individual groups and individuals who are profiting off of spreading misinformation and manipulation."

According to "Confronting Fear," a report released by the Council on American-Islamic Relations and UC Berkeley, 33 anti-Muslim groups received roughly $200 million between 2008 and 2013.

The Faith over Fear Roadshow will be at St. Paul Episcopal Church in Mount Vernon today, before their final stop in Vancouver on Thursday. Afzali said she hopes to take the tour to central and eastern Washington in 2018.

Instances of bullying, threats and harassment targeting Muslim communities are on the rise. During the shows, Afzali connects the present moment to history, noting that the American Muslims population is roughly equal to the Jewish population in 1930s Germany.

"The same kind of dehumanization that happened then is happening now in our country, in our time, in 2017,” she said. "And it's really sad and disturbing to see this, and it really should motivate all of us to be part of this movement of faith over fear."

Afzali said the audience response has been overwhelmingly positive, with some saying they'd never met a Muslim and may have even had negative views of the religion. But she said she also recognizes that some people won't be receptive, simply because of her faith.

"That's why we really try to encourage everybody to essentially become ambassadors, to go out there and also share this message of faith over fear, of facts over fiction and love over hate,” Afzali said.

She said she hopes others who believe in tolerance will help spread the word.

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