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9/11: San Diego Muslim Community Remembers

Aired 9/8/11 on KPBS Midday Edition.

The past ten years have been rocky for San Diego's Islamic community, we hear first-hand what they dealt with after 9/11

Islamic Center of San Diego
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Above: Islamic Center of San Diego

Right after the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush told Americans in no uncertain terms that their was no connection between the Islamic religion and terrorism. But that message did not get through to everyone. The past ten years have been rocky for San Diego's Islamic community, we'll hear from Imam Taha Hassane, Imam and Director of the Islamic Center of San Diego.

Information About Islam and Muslim -from Islamic Center of San Diego

GUEST

Imam Taha Hassane, Imam and Director of the Islamic Center of San Diego

Tareq Purmul, San Diego businessman, on executive council of the San Diego chapter of the Muslim American Society

Marwa Abdalla, Mother of two, involved with local Muslim community organizations.

Read Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

CAVANAUGH: Now, the top story on Midday Edition, right after the 911 attacks president George W. Bush told Americans in no uncertain terms that there was no connection between the Islamic religion and terrorism. But that message did not get through to everyone. The past ten years have been rocky for San Diego's Islamic community. It's been a time of challenge, but also a time of opportunity for Muslims to share the reality of Islam with the larger San Diego community. I'd like to welcome my guest, Imam Taha Hassane, Imam and director of the Islamic center of the San Diego. Imam Taha, welcome back to the show.

TAHA: Always a pleasure to be here.

CAVANAUGH: You were in Denver, and not the Imam here in San Diego at the time of September 11th, 2001. But what do you recall about that day?

TAHA: It was a shock to me, like every other American citizen. It was something that I had never expected, something that I could not understand at that very moment what was going on, who was behind it for what reason. So I mean, the feeling that I had is the feeling of every decent person in our nation.

CAVANAUGH: When you heard these were terrorists and terrorists who were doing this in the name of some sort of twisted version of Islam, did your heart sink in?

TAHA: Of course. Based on my knowledge of Islam, and my position as an Imam, I have never had any perception in my mind or heart that Islam can be used to justify such horrible acts. From day one, I disconnected Islam from this horrible action.

CAVANAUGH: Since coming to San Diego, what have you learned about the initial reaction of San Diegans to the Muslim community right after the attacks of 911?

TAHA: I have heard that there were both things, some of them are positive, some of them are negative. Maybe the negative things that happened around the Islamic center of San Diego, and a few other mosques here is that people driving by and screaming and throws some stuff like eggs and so on. A few attempts to vandalize the property. A few harassments here and there, especially against Muslim women because they are more visible with their hijab, which means head scarf. But also I have heard some positive things that happened. Some of our non-Muslim neighbors who reached out to the Islamic center right after the tragedy of 911, some of the official elected -- elected official people from the City Council, also some of our interfaith partners from other different faiths who reached out to the Islamic center, showing support, sympathy, and spending time with their Muslim neighbors over there because they knew what Muslims are going through, and they will be going through during their future faith.

CAVANAUGH: What were they going through? Speaking of the Islamic community in San Diego, what was the feeling after the terror attacks? What did the community talk about?

TAHA: Everybody was scared at the time because they had expected what will happen to them. Islam was under attack, Muslims were under attack at that time, many of my community members experienced some types of harassment and abuse just because they look like middle eastern or south Asians. They have different attire, they go to different house of worship and so on. So some of them experienced very hard time. Hearing some statements from other people, go back home, you know, you don't belong to here, and so on. But in general, in general, we can say that what we have experienced is less than we have expected, looking at, you know, the magnitude of the tragedy of 911.

CAVANAUGH: That's very interesting that you say that. However, did some -- didn't some people say they didn't want to go to the mosque anymore? That they were afraid?

TAHA: Yeah, some of them they didn't want to go to the mosque. And I had met a family, like two years ago, from North County, a Muslim family when they came to the Islamic center asking me to perform the marriage of their daughter. And I asked them, how come I didn't see you before? And they said, you know since 911, we didn't come to the mosque. I said why? They said we are afraid. And believe it or not, they thought that the FBI have a screening, you know, something to screen people at the door of the Islamic center. And I told them, you know, nothing happened like this. And everything is okay. And everybody is coming here to worship God and to do our Islamic duties.

CAVANAUGH: And yet a couple of years ago, there was a sister that broke that the FBI had done some kind of surveillance on the Islamic center.

TAHA: Yes, we heard about it like everybody else through an article that was published in the LA Times at that time. And we were very concerned as the leadership of the Muslim community here in San Diego -- I mean, if what are reason? And we would like to know what kind of secret evidences or secret things, information that they got from the Islamic center of San Diego, even though the Islamic center of San Diego is an open institution, we don't question people at the door, we don't ask people whether you are Muslim or not, or what's your intention by coming here. We have Muslims and non-Muslims who come on a daily basis on the Islamic center of San Diego, especially on Friday to come and attend the Friday prayer, listen to the Friday sermon, some people out of curiosity, they would like to go to the Islamic center to hear what Muslims are saying in their ceremonies. Maybe we are asking people to go and fight or something like this. So we have people coming on a daily basis, and we never question the faith of people or the intention of people. So I don't know why this -- they survey us. Whenever we give ape lecture or sermon in the Islamic center, we don't whisper in the ears of people. We say it loud, and we record it, and some of them are on YouTube and all that stuff. We are still asking this question: Why and what kind of information you could get from the Islamic center of San Diego?

CAVANAUGH: Because as you say, everything that happens there you're telling us is open and available to anybody.

TAHA: Of course.

CAVANAUGH: Now, do you think that the Islamic center suffers from a specific stigma because two of the 911 terrorist when is they lived in San Diego went to the Islamic center while they were here?

TAHA: I'm sure, yes. I'm sure, yes. Even though I didn't have any citizen of San Diego coming to me and asking me about this, but I had the media asking me about this whenever they want to do a story about 911 and the connection of San Diego to the 911. They ask me about the two guys who were here. And I always tell them I've never met them. I wasn't here. I don't know them. But I heard from some community members who knew them that they were very normal people attending the -- a few of the prayers, established at the Islamic center. And no one could say anything suspicious or wrong about them at that time.

CAVANAUGH: Now, Imam Taha, you have said that before 911 that the Islamic community in San Diego did a poor job of reaching out to non-Muslims. What do you mean by that?

TAHA: Not only in San Diego, but in the whole, you know, states. I believe -- I came by the way to the United States three weeks before 911.

CAVANAUGH: Wow.

TAHA: So it was totally, you know a different experience. But based on what I have learned and heard that I believe the Islamic community, the Muslim community in the United States did a very poor job in terms of reaching out to the larger society, to the civic society, to other interfaith community leaders and so O. I believe because the Muslim community at that time was living inside a bubble, inside a comfort zone. And very, very few people had the courage to go out of the comfort zone and reach out to others. So what happened in 911 was a wake-up call for all Americans, including the Muslims. A wake-up call telling us that the way we were heading before 911 was wrong. We have to open our minds and hearts, we have to do a better job in terms of reaching out to our non-Muslim neighbors. We have to tell our story to our fellow citizens. We have to define Islam, we have to speak about Islam and about ourselves because when we keep silent, when we don't speak, somebody else will speak on our behalf most likely in a way that we don't like.

CAVANAUGH: How have you gone about doing that kind of outreach, telling the neighbors in the larger community what Islam is all about?

TAHA: We have worked very hard in terms of establishing strong bridges and a relationship between the Muslim community and the interfaith community, and the civic society in San Diego County. Since then, during, you know, I've been here for the last seven years, and we could establish a good relationship with different interfaith alliances. Now we are part of different interfaith organizations. I can name some of them. The interfaith community for justice of San Diego County. And I'm a board member with them. The interfaith shelter network. In addition to this, also, we have the faith leaders for peace. And we participate in several interfaith dialogues around the county. Mac one of them is the annual interfaith dialogue at Beth Israel in La Jolla. And also the Thanksgiving interfaith dialogue at the San Tomas parish in North County. And many other interfaith dialogues and work that we do especially on the day of the Martin Luther King junior day where we go to Balboa Park. People from all faiths to do a community service day over there.

CAVANAUGH: I know you've worked hard at this for years now, and I believe the larger Muslim community as also seen outreaches as a very important thing to blend Muslim and have Islam welcome the larger community in. But just last year, we had an angry reaction to the establishment of a mosque in Temecula. Did that surprise you?

TAHA: Yes and no. Yes it surprised me because I didn't expect it. But no because of this tension that exists, still exists unfortunately between some portions of other faiths and the Muslim community. This tension is always nurtured by some, you know, Islamophobes in the fashion who work very hard, 24 hours a day in order to establish this sense of -- and sentiment of hatred toward everything that is related to Islam and Muslims.

CAVANAUGH: And speaking of that, there are pundits in the United States that want American Muslims, they say they should have gone more contrite after 911, they maybe even should have apologized for the 911 attacks. What is your reaction when you hear something like that?

TAHA: We apologize for something we have done wrong. We didn't do anything wrong. Of the Muslim community in the United States has nothing to do with the tragedy of 911. We have nothing absolutely. Our faith has nothing to do. So we -- I mean, we don't apologize because we didn't do it. And we have nothing to do with it. In terms of condemning, I would like to take this opportunity. I give a lot of presentations about Islam everywhere in San Diego County, schools, colleges, synagogues, church. The most common question asked to me is how come we did not hear your voice? How come you didn't condemn? And we have been condemning terrorism and terrorists since, you know, the 911. And major Muslim organizations in the United States have been doing this. And we always have been doing this. And I can say is right now, clear and straightforward, and I hope that all the listeners understand my message, the Muslim community in the United States disagree with whatever al Qaeda is doing. We condemned all the terrorist acts, regardless who was behind it, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, as we condemn 911, as we condemn many attempts to jeopardize our safety and security in the United States. We also condemned the terrorist act that happened in Norway, even though the one who was behind it is not a Muslim. So I'm saying it very clear and straightforward: The Muslim community in the United States is condemning all the terrorist acts regardless who is behind it.

CAVANAUGH: What else would you like to do to -- what else would you like to see happen to solidify these bridges that you've been building here in San Diego with the larger community?

TAHA: I would like to see the Muslim community more visible. I would like to see in the next few years Muslims getting more involved in every dialogue, every project that we contribute positively to our society. Muslims in America are Americans. Maybe some of them are immigrants, but since they are living here, they are Americans. They have been contributing for the better. Of the American society. They are doing it -- they will keep doing it all the time as long as they live here. Whatever something good that brings happiness and joy to our non-Muslim neighbors will bring happiness to us. Whatever brings sadness to everyone else will bring sadness to us. We are part of this society and we want to be visible. We want people to understand us. If I know that my neighbor is in trouble, is facing some difficulties, I go knock the door on him and I ask him how can I help you? This is what I want also our non-Muslim neighbors to do. Come, knock the door. And let us know that you are supporting us, you sympathize with us, let's work together for the betterment of America.

CAVANAUGH: I have been speaking with Imam Taha Hassane, Imam and director of the Islamic center of the San Diego. Thank you very much, sir for speaking with us today.

TAHA: You're welcome. Thank you so much.

CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. As we just heard in a conversation with Imam Taha, the last ten years for the Muslim community in San Diego have been all about building ridges, through education and outreach, many of the stereotypes about Islam have been over come. But individuals also find their own ways of dealing with adversity. And I'd like to welcome two members of San Diego's diverse Muslim community, here to share their post911 stories with us. Tahrek Premal is a San Diego businessman. He is on the executive council of the San Diego chapter of the Muslim American society. Tahrek, welcome.

PREMAL: Thank you.

CAVANAUGH: And Marwa Abdullah is a mother of two and involved with local Muslim community organizations. Hello.

ABDULLAH: Thanks, Maureen.

CAVANAUGH: And our listeners are invited to join the conversation if you'd like, give us a call at 1-888-895-5727. Or tweet your comment at KPBS midday. Tahrek, you lived here in San Diego on 911. What was it like?

PREMAL: Well, I remember I was -- at the time I was working at seers in UTC area, and I went to work, seers happened to be the only store open in the whole mall, and they called us in. And it was -- you know, it was a very, I guess you could say a nervous type of a day. Because you really didn't know what to expect. I woke up to the footage of 911, of the twin towers on fire. And I thought it was a movie at first. I thought it was like Escape to LA only, you know, New York. But it was a very tense day. We didn't know what to expect. There was at the same time a lot of Muslims that were working in seers on that day, so a lot of the employees were going back to the employer room where there was a TV, and there was, you know -- everyone is sort of pinned to the TV.

CAVANAUGH: Right. The image of Muslim or Arab terrorists was big even before 911. It was in our culture, it was in movies and so forth. What was your feeling though after you learned that the towers and Washington DC were attacked by people who were doing this apparently in some sort of name of Islam?

PREMAL: Sure.

CAVANAUGH: What did you think?

PREMAL: Well, I -- the first thing I thought is oh, no. This is -- already there is a misconception about Islam and the media's main focus or how Islam comes off to the general American public was very skewed. So when this happened, I was thinking, yeah, things are definitely going to get a lot rougher beyond this point. And it's going to really add to a lot of the stereotypes that are already out there. And I thought it was a shame because I thought there was some movement and some work that a lot of the Muslim American community was doing toward really portraying Islam in its true sense. And then when this happened, I was like, wow, that's ten steps back because most people are going to see it as an attack on America from people from the Middle East, and they're going to automatically associate the religion with it.

CAVANAUGH: Now, Marwa, you were living in Texas at 911 when 911 happened. It inspired you to make a choice. Tell us about that.

ABDULLAH: On the morning of 911, I actually -- I went out for cross country practice. And then we were in the weight room with everything started to happen. And we kind of stopped what we were doing and looked at one another and just were glued to the TV as Tahrek said. But as soon as that -- those few hours were over, I went back to my dorm room and I looked in the mirror, and I said, you know, Marwa, you're Muslim. You can't let someone hijack your religion in the name of terrorism and not do something very active to defend it. And if you had visited my dorm room months before that, you wouldn't even have found a hijab or a head covering in my room. But it happened for whatever reason a couple months before I bought one at a department store in Texas. And on 911, when that happened, I said people know you, Marwa. They know what you stand for, they know your values, and your values stem from your religion. And so if you start wearing hijab now, maybe that'll send a message that this is not what Islam is about. And sure enough, I, you know, put my hijab on. Very inexperienced at that point. Traded in my running clothes for a long sleeved cardigan and a floor length skirt. And I walked out the door for the first time, you know very visibly Muslim.

CAVANAUGH: What kind of reaction did you get? I mean, your friends must have said, Marwa, whatever you doing?

ABDULLAH: Yeah, well, I think it was amazing because I felt people knew me very well. I went it a liberal arts school that had a thousand three hundred students total. And I was a very active member of the campus. And most people saw me and immediately understood that what I was doing was not in solidarity with those who had carried out the attacks but that it was quite the contrary. It was saying, electric, this snot what Islam is about. I'm a Muslim, come talk to me. I may not have all the answers but I'll at least point you to the sources of Islam that are true, that are representative of what this faith is about, about justice can, about peace, about truth, equality, things that the attacks on 911 were not at all portraying.

CAVANAUGH: Tahrek, the women in your family had a somewhat different reaction after 911. Tell us about that.

PREMAL: Well, the women in my family, they were -- they all wore the scarf, and the hijab prior to 911, and it was -- I guess a very tense moment because my mom, she's a chemist who work enforce a company here in Carlsbad, a big biotech firm by the came of Beckman colter, and she gets up very early in the morning. And as well as the rest of the women in our family, it was the first reaction was we understood because the women, Muslim women are really -- stand as a flag of I said lam because of the way they dress. They're a lot more easily distinguishable than Muslim men. We can look Hispanic, Spanish, European, whatever. We can blend in a lot easier. And the Muslim women, it's a very unique type of dress. So the first thing that we were thinking was is there going to be any type of hate crimes that are going to be right after, you know? Watching a video of the twin towers, watching people throw themselves off 100 plus stories is pretty -- that's going to bring up a lot of emotion. So are they going to be targeted in and specifically a lot of times that there has been hate crime, there has been things that have happened or almost happen side when Muslim women have been by themselves. So we were trying to figure out how that was going to work out with my mom going to work that early in the morning as well as my sisters and everyone else trying to make sure that they were at least safe.

CAVANAUGH: So they decided to take off the head scarf. Do they wear it now?

PREMAL: No, they never decided to take.

CAVANAUGH: Oh, no, I thought they did. Okay.

PREMAL: They never decided to take the head scarf off. But it was more of a -- I guess you could say everyone was trying to figure out how it was going to work. More I guess a fear of reprisals and so forth. But yeah, they never took off the head scarf.

CAVANAUGH: I think from an outside perspective, that seems like a very brave decision on both your mother and wife and sister's part. And your part, Marwa did you feel brave?

ABDULLAH: You know, I -- I didn't feel so brave. But my father thought they was being a little bit inappropriate. He said, you know, Marwa wearing the head scarf is great, but you chose the wrong time. And I said, dad, there's no such thing as the wrong time. I'm doing this out of very strong conviction and for a very strong reason. But he was very concerned about my safety. The dean of students at my university and some of the police officers actually came and extended their support, saying be aware that there are people in the community who might not be so happy to see you walking down the street. And I did interact with some of those people. I did have a lot of comments, I guess, more than anything. Thankfully nothing beyond just talk. But when that happened, I felt like it was even more important to be visible and to act in a way that was in accordance with Islamic principles and Islamic morals and Islamic character. And these are things that are the same as the moral code we find in Judeo-Christian teachings. So by doing so I felt like I was sending a stronger message.

CAVANAUGH: Well, I think one of the big problems, and we see many women in the San Diego community wearing head scarves, and I think there still exists a level of not understanding what that's all about, so to speak. You did a really sort of very interesting thing when you did move here with your family to Clairemont. Tell us about that.

ABDULLAH: You're exactly right. As soon as we moved, we knew that we were one of the few Muslim families in our immediate neighborhood. And so I told my husband, we need to introduce ourselves. We need to break down any kind of barrier that might exist between our neighbors who may not have had Muslim friends before. And so time kept passing and I said, let's write a letter. So we sat down and we wrote a letter to all of our neighbors. And I brought a copy of the letter with me, but in essence, we said hi, we just moved here. We are the Youssa family, and we've got two little girls. And I went on and said we're Muslim, and there's a lot of misunderstandings and misconceptions about Islam, and about American Muslims in particular. At that time there were Korans being burned in Florida, and there were protests at ground 0 that they not build a mosque there. And things happening even in the California and San Diego area. And so we said, you know please, if you have any questions, talk with us. And we referred them -- referred our neighbors to different sources of reliable information. And the response that we got was really amazing because people said, you know what you did was very much needed and we really appreciate it. And welcome to the neighborhood. That sort of thing. And people were very kind, for the most part. We had a couple people who were a little bit skeptical, but by and large, everyone was very happy that we, you know, kind of extended a handshake.

CAVANAUGH: Tahrek, you work with Muslims as youth director what. Is the experience you hear from them? What is it like to grow up in San Diego as a Muslim after 911?

PREMAL: I do a lot of youth work through the Muslim American society. I'm the youth direct or here in the San Diego chapter. And a lot of the youth that I deal with overwhelmingly -- first of all, it's not easy to be a teenager in general, growing up with the circumstances of being a teenager, but on top of that, whenever you add growing up as a Muslim youth in the United States during the current circumstances, it's not easy at all. A lot of them that I talk to, this is -- they always mention that in school they're ridiculed or teased about being Muslim, there's always comments about them being terrorists. Some of them will take it in the sense where they sort of play along with the joke type thing sort of to hope that the storm passes them by. And others will sort of shy away or I've noticed a lot of the youth within the past ten years, and specifically even now with sort of the rise of Islamo-phobia in the United States , a lot of the Muslim youth, I've noticed will sort of make it -- they try to sort of blend in a little bit more, try not to identify themselves as being Muslim. A lot of them it affects them quite a bit whenever you talk with them. Sometimes emotions come out in ways you wouldn't really expect 'cause it's sort of been bottled in. They feel they can't really express it to their parents or anyone else. So it sort of comes out. And by and large, there is -- the youth really face it when they go to school.

CAVANAUGH: I wonder we've been marking this weekend of course the whole nation has been marking the tenth anniversary of the 911 attacks am I'm wondering now that we've passed ten years since that terrible day, what do you see as barriers that must be over come to really embrace all of Muslim Americans as Americans, as full Americans taking part in this rich nation? What are the barriers that remain, Tahrek?

PREMAL: Well, one obviously is just the misinformation that's out there, the stereotypes, people really don't have an understanding of what Islam calls for. There is some, I would say, concerted agendas to keep the status quo or even to feed the status quo. For some people, it's political interesting. But it's a very concerted effort to fuel the flames of this Islamo-phobia that's going on the other hand. Another barrier is really within the Muslim community. For the most part, the community is an immigrant community that's really started to immigrating around the 70s in the United States. And so it does have some of the immigrant characteristics in the sense that for so many years, the communities are really focused on the community itself.

CAVANAUGH: Tight-knit.

PREMAL: Tight-knight sort of we're in a new place, sort of protect yourself type thing. And we need to get to the next phase. And I'm really hopeful with the -- you know, with the second generation, with the youth that are like myself, you know, pretty much born and raised here. To be able to do as marwadid, to be able to really get outside of the cocoon that we've been used to for the past so many years and start extending hands out and letting people know, and I think it's really with people that, when you make an effort to reach out to people and -- once they get to know you, you don't really have to do a whole lot of explaining, but it's sort of the scariest movies are the ones where you don't know where the bad guy is. So just that concept of the unknown I think scares a lot of people. So whenever information is passed, and the third thing I would say is I think the media, you know, I'm sure this is no surprise, but I think the media needs to really make a concerted effort to change have the rhetoric and change some of the way Muslims and Islam has really been portrayed. In the past so many years if you look back at the movies from the 50s and 70s, Muslims in Islam was portrayed must have different in the past 20 years. And that really gives an image to the image to the mass public on what Islam stands for.

CAVANAUGH: Right.

PREMAL: It will pick specific things that is in a culture that's foreign for the most part to the United States. And we're hoping that that concept of it being foreign will cease to be and people will actually.

CAVANAUGH: Dissipate in the coming years. And Marwa what barriers do you see that need to be over come?

ABDULLAH: I think there's a really large communication gap. And I think Tahrek alluded to this between Muslims and their fellow Americans. Muslim Americans and their fellow Americans. So it's important that we not be afraid to ask questions. It's important that we not be afraid to seek the right kind of information. And by the right kind of information, I mean the following: That Islam cannot be defined by the Muslims that we see on the streets of San Diego. As much as I would like to say this in an ideal world, every Muslim in San Diego is following Islam correctly, I'm the first one who probably has several things that I need to work on in terms of representing my faith in a way that would do it justice. So if we want to leadership about Islam, rather than observe what Muslims are doing, read the sources of Islam, which are the Koran and the prophetic traditions.

CAVANAUGH: I wonder, do you both feel a great pressure to display Muslim -- the Muslim faith, Islam in a positive light? Is that a burden that you carry?

ABDULLAH: You know, I don't think it's a burden. One person was describing the prophet, and she said he was like a walking Koran. He, himself, portrayed the very essence of the Koran. So as Muslims we're trying to emulate that, and if we do that, we're going to have the best character possible because like I said, it's exactly in line with the Judeo-Christian principles of morality and justice and equality and brother and sister hood. So it's an opportunity. I don't think it's a burden. It's a great opportunity that if we take, I think this whole society could see Islam in a totally different light.

CAVANAUGH: Let me take a call. Sarina is calling us from Mission Hills. Good afternoon, welcome to the show.

NEW SPEAKER: Good afternoon, Maureen. Thank you for taking my call. I am so supportive of the Muslim community in San Diego and nationwide. They are a people of peace. And I just wanted to share with you, I had about three years ago a couple of conversations, personal telephone conversations with Imam PREMAL, asking him questions, and he answered them, and invited me out to the Islamic center, and I did go. And I was sharing this with someone that I know, and this person said to me -- I said, you know I really feel much more comfortable about what's going on. And this person said to me, well, how do you know that he wasn't just telling you what you wanted to hear? And that's the kind of distrust, that's the kind of -- I don't want to go as far to say hate, but fear of "the other". And we can't have that. So I firmly support anyone -- go out to the Islam center. Talk to them. They're wonderful, lovely, peaceful people.

CAVANAUGH: Sarina, thank you so much for the call. I think that we all thank you for that. One last quick question. I know that you both travel to other places. Is San Diego more or less accepting? Tahrek?

PREMAL: For the most part, I think it is. I grew up on the east coast in North Carolina, which is sort of the birthplace of the KKK and the south, and so forth. And in California, in general, we have a tremendous diversity. And I think, really, when we talk about America as a whole, and I've always believed that the diversity of America is what's really brought the success of America and allows it to stand apart from other countries because of that mix of talents that -- and heritage and cultures. So I think California is a little microcosm of that. California and in specific Southern California and San Diego.

CAVANAUGH: And Marwa? You're new to this community. Right.

CAVANAUGH: What do you think?

ABDULLAH: I do. I think that we're very fortunate here because I do feel that people are on the whole more accepting. And I just hope and pray that that acceptance is not superficial, that it's something that really does come from the heart, from a conviction that we all have something to contribute to this society. And I think that the Muslim American community, given its chance, will show Americans that they're ready to help. We want to make this country the best that it can be.

CAVANAUGH: I want to thank you so much. I've been speaking with Marwa Abdullah, and Tahrek Premal. Thank you both for coming in and speaking with us.

PREMAL: Thank you. Appreciate it.

ABDULLAH: Thank you.

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