The oldest Muslim organization in the United States held its seventh annual "Day on the Hill" with a series of meetings Friday with members of Congress that took on added significance with President Donald Trump's effort to halt immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.
The goal by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA was to discuss religious freedom, civil rights and national security, with an added emphasis on getting across the message that most Muslims are peaceful.
"This group is already working in the United States to tear down the walls of ignorance as far as Islam goes," Representative Jim McGovern, a Democrat from Massachusetts, said in an interview with Voice of America. "This is a great community and a vibrant community, a community dedicated to peace, nonviolence and love."
Meetings were planned between community leaders of the group's 75 chapters and up to 100 congressmen. They started with a series of speeches in front of a background that read "Islam wholly rejects all forms of terrorism," and included passages from the Quran to back it up.
Amjad Khan said one of the goals is to demystify Islam for those who aren't familiar with its teachings — a situation that creates a negative image of the Muslim community as "the other," particularly with terror groups espousing extremist beliefs carrying out attacks around the globe.
"We cannot allow the rhetoric of 'the other' to become the dominant narrative," Khan told VOA.
McGovern hopes Trump gets the message.
"What worries me is his actions might have fueled extremism around the world," McGovern said. "What he's doing, rather than providing security protection for the people of the United States, is he's playing into the hands of the extremists who go around saying the United States doesn't like Muslims."