Anti-Islam protester has change of heart after observing prayer service at Arizona mosque

Anti-Islam protester has change of heart after observing prayer service at Arizona mosque (The Express Tribune, June 2, 2015):

PHOENIX: Last week Jason Leger attended the protest outside an Arizona mosque where hundreds gathered for an anti-Islam demonstration.Things have changed for Leger since then. 

Wearing a profanity-laced t-shirt, Leger accompanied his uncle at the protest but had a change of heart that day when those attending prayer services invited him inside the mosque to observe the service.

“Out of respect for the Islamic people, knowing what I know now, because I have talked to them and spoke to them, no I would not do that again, just because I don’t want to offend or hurt those people,” he said after witnessing the sacred service.“When I took a second to actually sit down and listen to them, and actually enter their mosque, and go in and watch some of their prayers, it is a beautiful thing, and they answered some of the questions that I had,” said Jason Leger.

Leger attended the rally with his uncle, for them going was more about free speech than religion.

“We don’t have to like everything that is free speech in this world, but we do have to let it happen, we have to let people wear what they want, say what they want,” said Leger.

Leger and his uncle have been invited back to the mosque for more discussions, and this time the t-shirt will stay at home.

“I feel that me and a few people like my uncle Paul, and the Muslim people, taking the time to talk to each other, feel that we changed the thoughts of some people, and they changed the thoughts of me. Paul specifically said he would not wear that shirt again,” said Leger.

“I made my point, the point was that even the most vile speech is protected under the first amendment, that was the point I was trying to make,” said Paul Griffith.

Arizona mosque, site of anti-Islam protest, holds ‘love not hate’ event

A mosque in Arizona where counter-protesters were heard shouting “Go home, Nazis,” was the site of a “love not hate” event on Monday to promote peace and inclusiveness, participants said.

The Islamic Community Center of Phoenix said it was hosting a gathering that includes a multi-faith prayer service and speakers to “show that when one of us is mistreated, our community responds with a message of Love and Not Hate.”

“We ask that you bring a FLOWER as a symbol of love and care,” the event organizers said on Facebook. “We are better together, and together we are strong.”

Monday’s event, organized by more than 20 groups, comes four days after an anti-Muslim event held outside the mosque drew more than 200 protesters, some armed, who berated Islam and its Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

The rally was held at the mosque in part because two Texas gunmen who opened fire outside an anti-Muslim event in Texas last month had worshipped there, said rally organizer Jon Ritzheimer, an Iraq war veteran.

As that event unfolded, demonstrators on both sides screamed obscenities at each other as police in riot gear separated the two groups.

On Monday evening, about 200 participants filed into the mosque, some carrying roses, tulips and daisies.

“There’s been a lot of effort to divide the faith community and set us apart from one another and we want to demonstrate a strong message of togetherness,” Reverend Erin Tamayo, executive director of Arizona Faith Network, which helped to organize the event, said. “I am praying we don’t get any negative response.”

Most of those who attended had left by Monday night with no reports of violent flare-ups or arrests.

Among other co-sponsors of Monday’s were the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Arizona, Arizona Interfaith Movement and the Anti-Defamation League, according to the Facebook posting.

The article originally appeared on Fox 10 Phoenix

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