Interfaith gathering rallies support for Sacramento’s Muslim community

The Tarbiya Institute’s Friday service had a larger congregation than usual: More than 100 members of the United Methodist Church joined Muslims at the Roseville Islamic center in a show of solidarity against recent hate crimes and political actions perceived as targeting Muslims.

This was one of many actions nationwide Friday by religious and civil rights groups to support Muslims, refugees and immigrants following President Donald Trump’s executive order banning travel and immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, as well as his plans to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

“We condemn all forms of religious intolerance, both overt and covert,” United Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcaño said in an interview at the Roseville gathering. “We must stand firmly with our brothers and sisters of all faiths against oppression.”

Carcaño and others also decried recent hate crimes directed at Muslim mosques.

On Wednesday, the Tarbiya Institute in Roseville was found vandalized with slogans attacking Allah and Islam spray painted on the side of the building. Two week earlier, vandals smashed windowpanes, slashed bicycle tires and put strips of uncooked bacon on an exterior door handle at the Davis Islamic Center.

Imam Dr. Mohamed Abdul-Azeez of the Tarbiya Institute said Friday that those actions have generated an outpouring of support for the local Muslim community. At the Friday service, he said volunteers have brought in supplies and helped clean spray paint off the Institute’s walls. Others donated money to help with expenses after hearing about the event.

That sort of support from people of all backgrounds and faiths is vital, Bishop Carcaño said.

“It’s our duty as Christians, and as members of all faiths to be a part of this public discourse,” she said. “We are all children of God, and if we turn a blind eye to the suffering of others, we are not showing the compassion our religion preaches.”

Abdul-Azeez discussed with the congregation how anti-Muslim sentiment has affected his life.

In two weeks, he plans to travel with his family to Mecca, in Saudi Arabia, for the Umrah, a “minor pilgrimage” performed by Muslims. While preparing for the journey, he talked with his children about the risks they could face.

Although Saudi Arabia is not on the list of countries where travel is restricted under President Trump’s executive order, going to the Middle East and traveling as Muslims still can be dangerous, he said.

“I have to tell them, ‘You may go and not return,’ and of course, the children get fearful,” Abdul-Azeez said.

But Abdul-Azeez said that Muslims should not feel afraid because of recent events but instead show compassion and tolerance to others, and be open about their religion.

“Don’t do anything to hide your identity. Don’t even tell Starbucks an American name (when ordering there),” he said. “Be who you are, proudly.”

Robin Opsahl: 916-321-1176, @robinlopsahl