Photo by Andrew Wigdor/ Assistant News Editor
The Murfreesboro Muslim Youth group held a Muslim meet-and-greet in Murfreesboro’s Public Square Friday night to promote love within the community.
Members of MMY gathered at 4:30 p.m. to hand out cards, balloons, candy and general greetings to Murfreesboro residents. MMY members also provided a banner for people to sign with peaceful messages.
The group formed in July of 2015 in response to the murders of three Muslim youth in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. According to their website, the MMY’s mission statement is to “help connect, develop, grow, learn from, and educate our youth from all age groups through community services and working together.”
Sarah Alzabet, a junior at Siegel High School and a member of the Murfreesboro Muslim Youth, spoke about the group’s modest beginnings.
“It’s been about two years since we’ve formed. We started out really small and we started with a tiny dream. We focus on interfaith and charity work,” Alzabet said.
She discussed potlucks and interfaith dinners that the MMY help to organize, as well as homeless outreach that the group frequents.
Alzabet then spoke about the circumstances that prompted the organization of the Muslim meet-and-greet.
“I have personally always felt accepted here, but recently we have had a few incidents with our youth with some harassment and racism. We decided this was a good way to respond to that, with love and kindness. We are here passing out flyers, kind notes and it looks so successful to me,” she said.
The founder of the Murfreesboro Muslim Youth, Abdou Kattih, described the driving force behind the creation of the event.
“The idea was to show that we, as Muslims, care about the community. We have been recipients of such love and care for a long time,” Kattih said. “We want to be out in the open in a public space, showing love and sharing love.”
Citizens from Murfreesboro and surrounding areas congregated to hold signs bearing phrases of goodwill and to support their fellow Tennesseans.
Amanda James, a project manager and humanitarian, said at the meet-and-greet, “I am a believer that we are all one person. I wanted to make sure there was plenty of support here from the community.”
Her son, Andrew James, said, “I think it’s a great thing. Everybody is coming out and is able to communicate with each other and learn a little bit about each other.”
Many Murfreesboro residents were surprised by the large turn-out and accepting attitudes of community members towards the meet-and-greet event.
Manar Alkhiyami, a stay at home mom, said, “I’m so happy all these people are supporting us. They are saying we are one community. We are living together in the same community.”
“There’s more people here than I thought there would be. I’m very happy to see that. Everyone who believes in love needs to do everything they can to promote it. That’s the only way it will spread,” Arnold White, a retired steel worker, said.
Tori Scott, a retired Spanish professor and member of the Rutherford County Interfaith Council, said, “I think it’s important that Muslims feel the community supporting them. I think this is a good way to give people a dose of reality.”
Multiple attendees of the meet-and-greet voiced their fears and attitudes towards the results of the recent presidential election and the effects the results may have on the Muslim community.
“I think that the results of the election are disgusting. I’m embarrassed by what our country has elected as the new administration,” Amanda James said.
“Personally, the night of the election, I felt like there was something painted over America’s conscience. To me, Trump’s rhetoric inspires people to be more open about their racism and bigotry,” Sarah Alzabet said.
Sally Franklin, a senior manager of a consulting firm and Smyrna native, said, “I think it will affect the community in that it will force people to address their beliefs. I do know that there are plenty of people who are conservative Christians that will come to events like this to show their support for something different.”