SAN JOSE — With signs that read “Ask me anything” and “Meet a Muslim,” dozens of young Muslim men and boys in the Bay Area and beyond stood in public places Saturday in hopes of combating Islamophobia simply by talking with people.
The first “Meet a Muslim Day” was held in at least 50 cities and 120 locations nationwide. In the Bay Area, Muslims participated in San Jose, Antioch, Mountain View, San Francisco, Pleasanton, Berkeley and Pleasant Hill. The event was organized by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association USA, a Maryland-based group that works with an estimated 5,000 Muslim boys and men spread across 70 chapters nationwide.
It was something Iftikhar Khan had never done in his life. The 38-year-old San Jose resident brought his son, Rizwan, 10, and neighbor, Raees Qadir,14. The trio stood on Paseo de San Antonio near the Fairmont Hotel downtown.
“A large percentage of America has never met a Muslim before. And the perception of Muslims is that we’re violent and dangerous — and people are afraid of us,” Iftikhar Khan said. “It’s not surprising, to be honest, that people have that perception because there is a lot of violence in the world, and a lot of it is perpetuated by Muslims. But the vast, vast majority of the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world are peaceful. Our religion means peace. Literally, the word Islam means peace.”