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Kansas Muslims, Other Faith Leaders Promote Acceptance, Unity

Stephen Koranda
Moussa Elbayoumy speaking at the Statehouse Monday.

More than 100 people gathered for a rally at the Kansas Statehouse Monday aimed at understanding and acceptance of the Muslim community.

Moussa Elbayoumy, with the Kansas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said a federal travel ban from six majority-Muslim countries and concerns over terrorism can lead to what he calls “irrational fear.” He said he hopes events like the rally can help combat that. The crowd at the Statehouse was made of mostly of other faith groups.

“Showing that we are an integral part of this community and we are all working together, regardless of our faith, national origin or racial background,” Elbayoumy said. “We are not going to accept anyone dividing us.”

The organization is asking lawmakers for stricter hate crimes rules to help combat crimes based on bigotry.

Some at the rally took issue with messages from the last political campaign, including Rabbi Daniel Kirzane from Overland Park. He said messages stoking terrorism fears can lead people to be afraid of other cultures. Kirzane said that’s why events like the rally are important, because they can urge people to reach out and try to understand Islam.

“All we hear about most of the time are the bad guys,” Kirzane said. “What you’re hearing is not the whole story.”

Related: 'We Are Americans': A Visit To Wichita's Only Islamic School

Sophia Penner Minder, who is Mennonite, attended the rally holding a sign reading “stand with Muslim neighbors.” She said she's seen questionable information shared on social media about Muslims and she hopes people will learn more.

“That’s why I come to these rallies," she said. "This is educating myself and helping to move forward with the thought that everyone is equal.”

Stephen Koranda is the managing editor of the Kansas News Service, based at KCUR. He has nearly 20 years of experience in public media as a reporter and editor.