The Muslims of America Inc. Holds Conference to Discuss Religious Tolerance
SCHENECTADY - "I was hoping and praying that it's not somebody like a group doing it in the name of Islam because that's very damaging," said Atif Qarni, a panelist at the International Islamophobia Conference.
"This is just another stain that I have to live on and have to explain," said Bineta Diop, International Islamophobia Conference panelist.
After a terrorist attack like the massacre in Paris Friday night, many Muslims say their entire faith becomes targeted, instead of the few evil radicals responsible.
Diop explained "Every time somebody shows us in the wrong light, it's our responsibility as Muslims to come out and denounce it."
Bineta Diop came to the United States from Senegal, West Africa. She has several relatives currently living in Paris and describes their mixed emotions.
"Feeling sad but also having to watch out," said Diop.
She said when terrorists act wrongly in the name of Islam, it puts true Muslims in danger of retaliation. On Saturday, she joined panelists at the annual International Islamophobia Conference to discuss religious tolerance.
"I think we need to communicate openly 'What does it mean to be a Muslim in the U.S.?' 'Can a Muslim be patriotic and also practice their religion?'" said Qarni.
A former Marine who served eight years in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Atif Qarni knows those answers.
"We as Muslim Americans are very patriotic, we love our country," Qarni said.
And while another country begins what is sure to be a long healing process, Muslims want to spread understanding, in the hopes that no more innocent lives will be lost.
Diop said, "It's hard to hate up close, so we have to get closer to each other."
Speakers at the event also denounced ISIS as an anti-Islamic movement saying true Muslims believe in peace.