Donald Trump

#MeetAMuslim: Campaign Breaks Down Barriers to Educate Public About Islam

"Terrorism has nothing to do with our religion," American Muslim Iftikhar Khan said

NBC Bay Area

Iftikhar Khan, donning a white T-shirt with an American flag imprinted on it, graced the streets of San Jose on Saturday to teach the public about one topic: Islam.

"The vast majority of Americans don't know a Muslim and a lot of Americans are afraid of Muslims," he said. "I can understand why. There are a lot of negative things that a very, very, very small percentage of Muslims across the world are doing and the rest of us (Muslims) are not speaking out and so that's what I'm here to do today, to educate my fellow Americans."

Khan's plan unfolded as part of the the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association's inaugural #MeetAMuslim Day, which featured hundreds of Muslims answering questions about their faith in several cities across the county.

As terrorist attacks across the Middle East and Europe dominate the headlines and some ordinary citizens associate the religion of Islam with the bloodshed, Khan and others remain committed to teaching people about the religion's true principles.

"The vast majority of the 1.6 billion Muslims, like 99.9 percent, are peaceful," he said. "Islam means peace."

Khan added that Islam preaches respect for one's neighbor and instructs followers to live one's life to the highest moral standard. The associated connection between terrorism and Islam comes when people misinterpret the religion's teachings and then convince "ignorant people to follow their agenda." That agenda could be one person or group promoting violence in order to assume power. But as Khan emphatically noted, living by that thinking is simply not the way of Islam.

"Terrorism has nothing to do with our religion," he said.

In order to break the bond that links violence with Islam, Khan helped create a website coined to help educate outsiders about the religion's key principles as well as key misinterpretations.

"There is not a contradiction between being a proud American and a proud Muslim," Khan said. "I think there is a perception that you have to choose one or the other. You don't."

Khan put his work on the website into physical action Saturday by speaking with strangers in the South Bay. He may have only reached a few people, but that feat is better than nothing.

"Through this process, at least we'll meet 10 people today and now, at least, now they know a Muslim," he said. "And now they know that, you know what, I've met a Muslim and that Muslim was logical. That Muslim loved America and, you know what, wasn't that different from me. Cause I'm not that different from you. I'm really not."

Aside from terrorists attacks being a focal point of media coverage for several years now, President Donald Trump's recent executive orders pertaining to travel have put the spotlight back on people hailing from countries in the Middle East where Islam is the primary religion. Khan is taking the time to understand both sides of the travel ban discussion.

"The people that support the travel ban, I understand why they do," he said. "They don't know Muslims. They are worried. They are genuinely worried about their families and their safety. I'm out here to try and revert some of that fear."

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