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Congregations show support of local Muslim community

Members of local congregations have been standing guard outside a Pomona Islamic School to show solidarity with the region’s Muslim community.

The congregants, mostly from the Church of the Brethren in La Verne with some members from Pilgrim Place, have been in front of the City of Knowledge during student pick-ups. CotB Pastor Tom Hostetler explained the acts as a project of the Claremont Interfaith Council to support to the region’s Muslim population in the wake of the San Bernardino attacks.

“It’s just a presence of folks who are concerned with students and staff,” Mr. Hostetler said. “We want to stand with people who are sometimes oppressed. They would do the same for us.”

Don Coleman, who was also posted along the south entrance to the school, concurred.

“Muslims get scapegoated, and it’s not fair,” he said. “These are our friends and neighbors.”

Mosques and Islamic centers throughout southern California have been vandalized in the days after the attack at the Inland Regional Center on December 2. In Coachella, the front lobby of the Islamic Society of Palm Springs was set ablaze. A suspect has since been arrested.

As the mostly elderly congregants stood guard outside the school, students and parents approached with gifts of hot chocolate and pastries.

“It’s wonderful how people come out to support us and protect us,” said student Dania Amiri, who offered hot chocolate. “They really know what’s going on.”

City of Knowledge Office Manager Firly Septiana said members of the Church of the Brethren are not strangers to showing solidarity with the Muslim community—church members stood guard in front of the school in the days following the September 11 attacks.

“We feel like they’re a part of us,” Ms. Septiana said, adding that many of the children at the school are getting to know the congregants as the days go by. “[The children] feel like they’re protecting them.”

As parents arrived to the school to pick up their children, the congregants politely waved to them as they drove past. Ms. Septiana said the school was considering closing on Wednesday after the mass shutdown of school in the LA Unified School District, but members of the church urged her to keep it open.

Dickson Yagi compared the plight of American Muslims to another group who was marginalized during a tumultuous time in American history.

“In World War II, the oppressed was the Japanese,” Mr. Yagi said. “Now, it’s the Muslims.”

Noor Asmail, who offered pastries to the guards, appreciated the efforts of the community.

“After I saw them, to be honest I feel like my kids are safe,” Ms. Asmail said. “It’s nice we have people to protect us here.”

Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com

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