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Canton Muslims Invite Dialogue In the Face of Anti-Sharia Demonstrations

photo of Chelsea Goodwin, Bethany Johnson

About a dozen anti-Sharia events were scheduled around the country over the weekend, but that didn’t stop one Islamic group in Canton from inviting people for a cookout on Saturday.

About a dozen people gathered at Waterworks Park for what was billed as a peaceful response to the anti-Sharia marches. Chelsea Goodwin from Canton said it was important to be there to show support, even though she and her wife are not Muslim.

“As people in a same sex relationship, we understand the importance of allies. And people who have chosen to partner up with us. And even though they’re not in the same boat we are, it meant a lot. And so it was important to do that for other people.”

Sara Greathouse was one of the organizers, and said her mosque has an excellent relationship with city officials.

“They’ve been extremely supportive of everything we’ve tried to do. And as far as the citizens in Canton and Stark County, for the most part everyone’s got a ‘live and let live’ and supportive attitude.”

Greathouse added that she was glad no anti-Sharia events were scheduled in Ohio, but she was also concerned that there may have been similar, unscheduled events in the state.

Dave Kling was there discussing the meaning of the month-long fast known as Ramadan. He says the people attending on Saturday were mostly allies of Islam, but he hoped to have a dialogue with people who are actively opposed to his religion.

“We tried to get more support locally, but there’s a lot of fear. The irony is that the White converts are the ones that feel safe and can organize. But our African-American brothers and sisters, they expressed their fear at not wanting to put themselves in danger.”

Kling adds that many people with questions about Islam may not want to engage in a dialogue until they’re affected by the religion personally, such as a loved one dating a Muslim.

Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.