by Nicole Gibson
On September 16th, members of a Louisville Islamic Center arrived at the mosque to find it vandalized with disturbing messages spray-painted across the building. Messages like, “Moslems leave the Jews alone” and “This is for France.”
The malicious act, presumably intended to cause division in the community, actually had the exact opposite effect.
Just two days after the vandalism, nearly 1,000 Louisville residents from all faiths, including over 100 from the local Jewish community, gathered to stand in solidarity with the mosque and help paint over the graffiti. Supplies for the painting were even donated by members of the local community. Muhammad Babar spoke on behalf of the Islamic Center, saying, “Whoever did this, we will pray for him, and we have forgiven him.”
Having already developed a close relationship with the mosque’s imam and members, Peace Catalyst had a prominent presence at the event, with Martin Brooks being asked to speak to the crowd at the re-painting. We had also already been working closely with The Partnership for Compassionate Louisville, prior to the vandalism, to present a “Compassion Bench” to the Islamic Center on September 18th, the very day community members gathered to paint over the hateful graffiti. Because of all the media attention present for the re-painting, this gesture of peace became known all around the city, and God took what someone meant for evil and used it to amplify the voices of the peacemakers. Love wins again in Louisville.
Martin Brooks reminds us a bit more about the Muslims of this particular mosque, lest we assume that all Muslims are like the terrorists we hear about on the news. He says, “I know these Muslims and they are my friends.
- The Muslims at this particular mosque mobilized their people to help clean up Henryville after a tornado ripped through that community.
- The Muslims in this mosque routinely speak out against terrorism in Louisville’s Courier Journal op-eds.
- The Muslims at this mosque set up an endowment for Christian children in Pakistan, after their parents were brutally murdered by an angry mob, so the children would have an education.
- The Muslims at this mosque routinely invite guests from the area into their services to see “what goes on in there” and answer questions.
- The Muslims at this mosque sponsor a large community iftar meal each year in an attempt to get to know others and become friends. Last year they fed 500 of their neighbors for free.
- The Muslims of this mosque make our community a better place because they serve Louisville, some as our doctors and lawyers.
- The Muslims of this mosque attended Louisville’s 9/11 commemoration this month and bought lunch for many of the firemen present.
- The Muslims at this mosque help me in my work with Peace Catalyst International because they are so accommodating and helpful to our guests as we visit the mosque.
These are incredibly compassionate members of our community. I have to believe that whoever did this simply did not know these Muslims.”