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Identity & Community

Islamic Center Wants To Make Allies Of Pittsburgh's Non-Muslim Community

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Sarah Schneider
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90.5 WESA

Muslims are not perfect, but KelceySharkas believes the religion can be.

Sharkas, outreach coordinator for the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh, said growing misconceptions about Islam – from national political rhetoric to the Thanksgiving Day shooting of a Muslim Taxi Driver in Hazelwood – have created a need for deeper spiritual and cultural understanding.

The center hosted a training Saturday for non-Muslim attendees on how to be a friend and supporter of those faithful to Islam and its teachings. 

Organizers wanted to “ensure comfortability but to also portray solidarity,” according to the poster for the event.

Of the couple dozen attendees, Islamic center leaders said several already consider themselves allies of the Muslim community. Sharkas said it's up them to also inform others who wouldn’t have considered attending such an event.

It starts with a conversation, she said.

“Muslims can go out and they can say things, they can combat everything that they want to. But no one is going to listen to them,” she said. “They’re going to think they’re lying. They’re going to think they’re covering up, that they’re making excuses. Even if they quote evidence from the Quran or the Hadith, which are narrations from the prophet, peace be upon him.”

Sharkas defined the pillars of Islam, the meaning of Jihad and why women wear head scarves, or hijabs. She noted the difference between the religion and the cultures where the religion is practiced and explained what she said were regularly misquoted verses from the Quran.

“Muslims are not perfect, we believe the religion is perfect,” she said. “And if you go back to the doctrine, you can see that mostly what these mostly Muslim countries are deciding to do is against what Muslims preach and believe in.”

The center plans to hold similar trainings in the future. It also teaches a course on Saturdays called Islam 101, to educate the public on the beliefs and practices of Islam.