Fountain Hills church hosts Islamic Forum

In response to the Paris attacks, a Fountain Hills church held an event to address concerns and to dispel misconceptions about Muslims.

It's meant to be a way to bring people of all faiths together.

But not everyone is happy that their church is giving these local Muslim leaders a public forum.

This event had been planned for some time and security was hired because of the backlash they received. It started around 7 p.m. and ended by 8:45, some left with smiles saying it went well and wanted to ask more questions. Others felt the panelists told them what they wanted to hear and were upset it was held at the alter of this church.

The Islamic forum was held at the Church of the Ascension in Fountain Hills. "It was put on the calendar in September, some people argued that because of what's gone on in Paris we shouldn't have it, my argument was all the more reason," said Pastor John McDonough.

The panel was invited by the Fountain Hills Interfaith Alliance to answer questions about Islam, dispel myths, and to discuss the challenges of being a moderate Muslim-American. One Imam says they are just as upset over recent terrorist attacks. "On top of the reason that everybody is upset because innocent human lives were lost, we're doubly upset because our religion is being hijacked and is being marred by these groups, and the third reason we are upset is because it is specifically putting the Islamic community in danger and in fear of retaliation," said Imam Anas Hlayhel.

Some questions from the audience ranged from how they dispel stereotypes, to if they consider non muslim's the vilest of animals. Some were open to hearing from the panel, and others were against having the panel at the church.

"All Muslims are not terrorists, but a lot of terrorists are Muslims," said Marty Logan.

"I don't think that it's an appropriate venue, or an appropriate role for a pastor to be promoting any other religion than the one they are supposed to believe in," said Lina Bellenir.

"Any time that we can inform ourselves and get some more insight into it and have understanding of who we are as people then we have a better time living with each other," said Pastor McDonough.
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