Tracy City, California - A prominent member of San Joaquin County’s Muslim community denounced the violence carried out by Islamic extremists Saturday during an open house at a Tracy mosque.
The Islamic Society of Tracy entitled its open house “Building Bridges Between Our Neighbors.” Tracy Mayor Mike Maciel and other civic leaders were among a group of about 70 people who attended the event.
The Islamic Society said the open house was an effort to bridge the gap between Muslims and other members of the Tracy community. Mosque leaders said they held the event in order to meet their neighbors, city officials, church leaders and members of the Chamber of Commerce, and to build relationships, promote greater understanding and answer any questions visitors might have.
“We are trying to build a bridge,” Islamic Society Vice President Zabih Zaca said. “We are part of this community, and people have a right to know what we are doing. I’m so glad our neighbors are coming here. We have to find the bond between our faiths. We have to break down all the walls and get to know each other.”
Islamic Society President Moheb Arghandiwal said there are about 4,000 Muslims living in Tracy. He said the mosque is a place where religious leaders teach respect, honesty, loyalty and love.
Arghandiwal also spoke out against acts of violence committed by ISIS and other Muslim extremists who have carried out terrorist attacks around the world. He said jihadists are fighting for money, power and fame, and that they represent a small percentage of the world’s Muslim population.
“They have done a lot of damage to Islam and Muslims,” Arghandiwal said. “We want to let people know that these extremist groups don’t represent Muslims, Islam or us.”
The Islamic Society of Tracy is located about two miles south of the Tracy Islamic Center. Worshippers at the Islamic Center were shaken in December by the discovery that someone had hurled a Molotov cocktail at the mosque, blackening part of a wall and a steel door, apparently in a failed attempt to set it on fire.
The San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office estimated the damage at $1,000 and announced it was investigating the incident as a possible hate crime. In January, the FBI announced that it was offering a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for the vandalism.
Zaca said it was an isolated incident that does not concern most local Muslims.
“Every minute, unexpected things happen,” Zaca said. “We are not afraid of that. It is not something we are worried about.”
Maciel praised the Islamic Society for holding the open house.
“You look at what’s happening on the world stage, and I think it’s important for local Muslims to help us understand what the true Muslim community is because there’s such negative representation,” Maciel said. “You have terrible things happening in other countries that are horrific by anyone’s standards, including these people, and I think it’s very generous and courageous of them to say, ‘Please come and visit with us and get to know us.’”
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