Despite comprising an ever-growing part of the world population, 62 percent of Americans don't know a single Muslim. On Saturday, young Muslims across the country hope to change that fact with its national Meet a Muslim Day.
Hundreds of Muslims from an organization called Muslim Youth USA will be out in force in communities around the United States to answer any questions inquisitive minds may have about a religion that has been cast firmly in the spotlight in recent months.
“There are questions that need to be asked and we're here to answer them,” said Masroor Ahmad, a volunteer with the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association, told Milwaukee radio station WTMJ after a similar event in Milwaukee last month.
“They're asking us questions like can you eat pork? Do you celebrate Christmas? What is Allah? Do you believe in Jesus Christ? It's just these very basic questions that goes to show that a lot of Americans don't really know what Islam is about and we're here to show them and answer those questions.”
Muslims make up one percent of the U.S. population, yet few Americans claim to have ever come into contact with one. That compares to 61 percent who claimed to have met a Jew, who comprise two percent of the population.
The organizers of Meet a Muslim Day, in which Muslims will be at 124 locations nationwide, have said that familiarizing Americans with Muslims and Islam is key to halting the dramatic rise in violence against the community seen in the past two years.
“This ignorance leads to anger, hatred, and even terrible acts of violence,” read a post announcing the event. “To decrease this percentage and increase education, hundreds of Muslims across the United States will go out for March 11th #MeetAMuslim Day. Muslim youth will be on the streets to answer any questions the public has about Islam.”
Hate crimes against Muslims went up 67 percent in 2015, according to FBI data, while there has been a surge in reports of attacks against Muslims and mosques since last year’s election.
Earlier this month, three Muslim students who attempted to visit an Oklahoma lawmaker were first asked to fill out a questionnaire about their faith, which included being asked whether they beat their wife.