As many of you know I live in Gainesville. Among whom who don’t know many will hear this city’s name in few days, unfortunately, for a wrong reason. Recently a church named Dove Church, reportedly having less than a hundred members, announced that they want to burn the Quran (Koran). I know what you will be thinking, or at least among many of you, there will be disbelief and anger. I want you to control your anger and listen.
Three and a half years in Gainesville and today for the first time I am little afraid. I live in fear of how my country men will react. Will they morph into the lynching crowd of Sialkot? Will they burn fast food restaurants as they did when protesting against caricatures killing two of their own country men or will they set cars and buses on fire? Will they become the monsters the Dove Church envisages Muslims to be?
Muslims of Gainesville need you to remain calm, remember that this does not represent America, this does not represent Florida and this does not represent Gainesville. It is one of the most diverse and welcoming city you can find. Three and a half years in this city and I have not met one person who has discriminated against me for being Pakistani or being Muslim. My face does not hide from where I am and my name is quite indicative of what my beliefs are.
I want you to remember that this action is being done by a fringe group. Remember that this is not a global conspiracy against Islam; these are just few hate mongers trying to get attention.
Just let me give you a little history: previously this pastor tried to pull of a stunt by asking school-going children of his congregation to wear shirts with “Islam is of the Devil” written over them. Before this no one knew of them. Even before the Muslim community became aware, that school’s administration asked those students to either change their shirts or cover them. This event pushed the Gainesville community to re-introduce school uniforms. Rest of the community in Gainesville, both Muslim and non-Muslim, reacted against it peacefully.
There is one more reason – I have not seen before Muslims of Gainesville as united, as energetic and as active. And Gainesville community supports us; they are against this hateful act. From the day this pastor has announced this program, we are getting support from all-around. Muslim Community of Gainesville has decided that they will not protest. We will respond by servicing the community. On that day we will be having multiple events to help the people of Gainesville who need us. There will be a food drive for the homeless, blood drive and book collection drive. On other days we are having doing community outreach, having Koran 101 day and opening our Masajids to anyone who wants to come and ask any question.
Why are not we protesting? Because it does not deliver anything, it’s useless and it can result in confrontation. Confrontation is one thing we don’t want. And we don’t want Muslims living away from America to become violent. Your violence, smoke coming out of burning tires and effigies will only harm image of Muslims. We, Muslims of Gainesville, are setting example of how to react intelligently and peacefully; please help us.
I know you are hurt, but will anger go away by doing what we do? Don’t burn things; don’t come out shouting in the streets, drying your throats. There are many things you can do; Pakistan is going from worst crisis now, why not have Largest Donation Day? Or Biggest Blood Collection Drive? Many schools have been destroyed; why not get money for one School?
If you want to show your anger, do it by sending letters. Write letters to the American Embassy, to White House and if you want to Dove Church, telling them to read Book not Burn it. Educate people about Islam.
Many people will ask why they are allowed to do it. They will say it because they are being allowed this means American Govt. is involved. Remember this is the country, where you can burn the flag of this country, where you can say you favor Hitler and not get arrested.
Most of you know these things and understand the Freedom of Expression comes with the extra responsibility of bearing ignorance, but most of our fellow citizens don’t understand it. Please educate them. Don’t let this become opportunity for radicals and extremists.