By ERIN FLYNN
HARRISONBURG — Many Muslims have been feeling alienated this week after President Donald Trump’s order restricting travel to the U.S. from seven majority Muslim countries.
But those of other faiths in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County sought to reassure the local Islamic community that it is welcome in the area.
On Friday, about 30 volunteers collected and set out food donated to the Islamic Center of Shenandoah Valley. After the center’s weekly 1 p.m. service, the 300 attendees had a chance to grab lunch to go or have a sit-down meal.
“This support shows us the community is standing with us,” said Abdul Shakoor, president of the Islamic Association. “This makes us feel like we are all Americans.”
Trump’s order affects Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen, and suspends the U.S. refugee program for 120 days. Its goal is to provide time to beef up the country’s vetting process to ensure terrorists can’t enter the U.S., according to the administration.
Two days after Trump signed the executive order on Jan. 27, six people were shot and killed at a mosque in Quebec.
“You can feel isolated about a lot of the events going on,” said Najeeha Khan, a James Madison University senior who visits the Islamic Center of Shenandoah Valley each week. “The targeting of our community is very isolating.”
Friday’s meal sought to bring people together.
“Together, we’re stronger. We have such a richness of culture in the city and county,” said Melanie Miller, a volunteer.
Volunteers had six days to prepare for the event, which Rebecca Sprague, community program coordinator for Church World Service’s Harrisonburg Immigration and Refugee Office, posted on Facebook on Jan. 28.
“We’re really just trying to show support … and saying we’re glad you’re here and you make our community a richer place,” Miller said.
Desserts, vegetables and various food began pouring in when volunteers arrived at noon Friday. The food kept coming during and after the service, which ended at 2 p.m.
Each donor was asked to write a note to the Islamic community on a cloth.
“Love conquers all,” “You are always welcome!” and “We’re glad you’re our neighbors!” were among the messages.
“The community support has been awesome,” Miller said. “We are absolutely with more food than we possibly could get rid of in this setting.”
For Khan, the support was heartwarming.
“Food is the language of love,” she said, “and I think this shows a lot of love from the community.”
Contact Erin Flynn at 574-6293 or email@example.com