Local muslim community welcomes visitors to talk and learn
JOHNSON CITY, TN - A show of solidarity Friday at a Johnson City mosque. This on the heels of President Trump's ban on refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim countries. Local Muslims welcomed people from outside the religion to visit and local people from outside the religion took the time to see and hear.
Before the beginning of prayer, Taneem Aziz gave visitors a tour of the community center and mosque, answering questions openly.
"I think we should learn about each other as much as we can so we can break stereotypes," Aziz said.
Visitors watched Friday afternoon prayer led by Aziz. He delivered a sermon urging congregants to engage with those outside their religion.
"One of the things that we believe in is that our aklaq, or our behavior, is what makes our faith," Aziz said, "so the best of behavior is the best of faith. I think that message kind of gets thrown aside because you read about this or you read about that event going on and so that's the struggle that we face."
Former Christian minister Ryan Carter said he was taught to preach about Islam in a negative light. That changed when he got to know Muslim people first hand.
"I realized that Islam is a religion of peace, that they are a people, the majority of them are seeking peace," Carter said. "Extremists from any perspective does not define a religion."
His wife, Megan Hurst-Carter said they invited friends and others through Facebook to join in this visit.
"I think they jumped onboard and realized, yes, that's what I've been wanting to do or I've been wanting to do something and that would be a good opportunity," Hurst-Carter said.
For some like Mike Whelan, the visit was educational. The emergency services worker said learning about different cultures helps him do his job better and would benefit anyone.
"It's amazing how much this faith and Christianity is so similar in the sense that community is so important," Whelan said. "They rely so much on each other."
The visit was one of solidarity for first time visitor Katherine White.
"Like the imam said today, we need to engage, we need to work together," White said. "We need to help other people to understand all of our commonalities, and it's not appropriate to discriminate at all."
Aziz said anyone is invited to visit and learn. Just contact the center to set it up at (423) 975-6681.