The Loudoun Crime Commission welcomed Sheriff’s deputies, government agents and all walks of faith to the Holiday Inn in Leesburg Tuesday, Nov. 16.
The Loudoun Crime Commission, a two-month-old nonprofit, membership organization focused on crime prevention and reduction in the community, held this month's annual meeting on "Islam’s Perspective on Security in Northern Virginia," however the topic quickly turned into a lesson on Islam and Muslim society.
THE LUNCHEON began with the introduction of keynote speakers ADAMS Center Imam Mohamed Magid and his executive assistant Farhanahz Ellis.
Loudoun Crime Commission chairman Mike Spak welcomed Magid and Ellis to speak about Islam and their role in the community.
The Imam opened the discussion with an overview of Islam and the importance of interfaith dialogue in today’s society.
The Imam told a story about a man lost in the desert. He was hot and tired and decided to give up. After hours under the blazing sun, the Imam continued, he saw something in the distance. He assumed it was an animal and he was scared of it.
As the creature moved closer, the man realized it was his friend.
"When we get closer, when we talk," Magid said, "we come to know we are friends."
Magid and Ellis dedicate their time to their religion, as well as the interfaith movement.
The ADAMS Center promotes open discussion between Muslims and non-Muslims to spread truth and peace.
MAGID OPENED THE discussion to questions.
"We prefer you ask us questions directly," Ellis said, "rather than yell at your television set."
Citizens asked questions like, "Does Islam advocate the killing of innocent people?" "Does Islam condone suicide bombers?" and "What is jihad?"
The Imam and Ellis stressed one fact, terrorists are a small, extreme group of Muslims and in fact, Islam does not condone suicide and the murder of innocent people.
Loudoun resident Barbara Dixon sat at a table in front of the Imam. She held a Bible in one hand and a photo of her son in the other.
When the Imam talked about terrorists, she glanced at her son's picture and raised her hand to speak.
When Magid called on her, she stood up.
"In one month, my son will go to Iraq," she said.
The frightened mother did not ask questions, but it was clear she was upset about the war and concerned for her son's safety.
The Imam listened to her concerns and complaints and attacks on Muslim society.
"I will pray for your son," he said.
THE PROGRAM RAN 30 minutes over schedule.
Citizens had questions and Magid and Ellis took the time to clear up any misconceptions about their religion.
"A small group of people have hijacked our religion," Magid said. "We cannot be silent about it."
At the end of the discussion, Ellis addressed Dixon at the podium. She said she understood what she was going through. Her brother is a Vietnam veteran.
Ellis said she wished Dixon's son did not have to go to Iraq.
"It doesn't look like it's going to be that way," she said. "So I will pray for him. I will continue to pray for him."
Next door to the banquet room, an Imam made a call to prayer. A group of Muslims worship at the Holiday Inn in Leesburg on Fridays.
"We are everywhere," Magid said.