Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Muslims are "just our neighbors"

Terre Haute, Indiana, isn't a metropolis like Chicago or St. Louis, but it's a town with a heart. Home to Indiana State University, it also has an Islamic Center for Muslim worshippers who reject violence and seek to be good neighbors. A few months ago, someone painted a swastika on the Center's parking lot, but last week someone else, perhaps an entire family, defied Islamophobia by leaving a token of Christian kindness at the front door -- a small Christmas tree.

                                                                                    Tribune-Star/Joseph C. Garza
Mohammad Alam, chairman of the Center's board of trustees, said the congregation expected backlash from recent shootings, and were surprised by the tree, whose branches are hung with homemade paper decorations with messages in different handwriting. Some decorations are shaped like hearts. One says, "Thank you for being GREAT neighbors." On another are the words, "We were born to unite with our fellow man and to join in community with the human race."

Delana Pearman lives near the center. She did not give the tree, but is glad someone did. "They're just our neighbors," she said of Muslims. "They're wonderful people."

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