Tigard mosque fighting Muslim backlash after Orlando shooting

Muslim community feels misunderstood

TIGARD, Ore. -- Minutes before the Orlando shooter entered a gay nightclub, reports say he called 911 pledging allegiance to the terror group ISIS.

It's left some Americans blaming the entire Islam religion for the act of one person.

Portland's Muslim community is talking about the misconceptions surrounding Islam, partly because they feel like they have to. They say it's sad and frustrating that one bad person can hurt the reputation of their entire faith.

At Tigard's Muslim Educational Trust  mosque and school, officials said they haven't had any problems or backlash.

But it is unfair and dangerous to blame a religion for what one sick person does. Their point is we wouldn't say any of the terrible school shootings done by white Americans were the fault of all Christians, or Catholics, or Mormons.

Islam is one of the most practiced monotheistic religions in the world. The Muslim teachers of this K-12 school are devastated that it's peaceful purpose has been twisted.

"That's what you see with ISIS and Al-Qaeda and other people. It's politically based and people want power and these are means to an end to gain power," explained Jawad Khan, one of the school's philosophy and English teachers.

They feel like a scapegoat for a mentally disturbed and conflicted man who took his frustration out on dozens of people. School president Wajdi Said said it's frustrating Muslims get blamed. Violence is not preached in Islam, only defending oneself when you're attacked. Orlando was a big step backward for Muslims.

"Look at Muhammad Ali. He's a very devout Muslim, very intelligent American, and he chooses that as his way of life and expressed it in so many ways. And here we have an incident that killed all that spirit."

Their students get discouraged, reading comments attacking their faith online.

"It is frustrating and it is also understanding that people, and when I say people I mean bigots and those that are hateful, will use anything as a scapegoat," Said explained.

What happened in Orlando brought two persecuted groups together that normally aren't: the gay community and Muslims. It's a struggle for many religions.

But a Pew Research Study last year found that U.S. Muslims were more accepting of LGBT people (45 percent) than Evangelical Christians (36 percent), Mormons (36 percent) and Jehovah's Witness (16 percent).

"Sexuality is a private issue in Islam," Said noted. "It's a private thing and here are more important things in our life."

And that secrecy may be part of the problem, but that's a different issue. For now, this Tigard mosque just wants people to open their minds and learn.

"I may believe a little bit different, but I still want the same things," said Khan. "I want to live comfortably, I want my children to succeed and I want my community to do well."


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