Yaqoob Malik is in Charleston as part of a U.S.-Pakistan partnership program arranged by the International Center for Journalists, in Washington, D.C.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As Pakistan's prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, prepares to meet with President Obama in Washington, D.C., today, local Pakistani residents and leaders say they have found the Charleston area very peaceful since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
However, the local Muslim community would like the media and others to highlight the efforts of American religious leaders of all schools of thought, including Muslim, Christian and Jewish, to promote interfaith activities and help people of different religions understand each other.
The act of any individual or group who belongs to any religion cannot be blamed on the entire religion, as the basic teaching of every religion is to support peace, Imam Ehtashamul Haq of the Islamic Association of West Virginia told the Gazette.
"I was not here during 9/11 ... however I know that the situation was very ideal in Charleston as not any sectarian clash or violence occurred," the imam stated. Many local residents, he said, placed flowers at the main entrance of the local Islamic center, as a gesture "to lower the fear among the local Muslim community with the comments that 'we consider you friends instead of enemies.' "
Those acts of local people, he said, created great respect among the heart of the local Muslim community. Since then, efforts have being made to strengthen the interfaith activities through regular inter-religion dialogues and meetings, he added.
On the part of local communities, there have been good efforts regarding interfaith harmony in the last 12 years, but still there is a big gulf and deficiency in the media as such important activities do not get proper space and attention in the West Virginia media, the imam said.
The role of interfaith harmony is essential, as people can only defeat terrorism and promote peace with interfaith unity, he stressed.
One of Saudi Arabia's top Islamic clerics, the Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh, also strongly condemned terrorism in his sermon during the annual Islamic hajj, which was attended by about 1.5 million pilgrims who descended on Mount Arafat.
"Islam does not allow terrorism at any cost," he said. "Islam condemns all violence and terrorism plaguing the world today, and Muslims should demonstrate a love for peace and unity."
Dr. Badshah Jan Wazir, from Wana of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province in Pakistan, has been a cardiologist in Charleston since 1975. He believes the interfaith activities in the Charleston area are remarkable, but thinks that a proper interfaith charter or policy should also be devised at the national level in the United States.
At the higher level, an effective short- and long-term strategy would counter confusions and misunderstandings in case of any major incidents in the future, he said.