(WWBT) - "We stand together." That was the message from dozens of faith leaders gathered at the Islamic Center of Virginia Thursday. This new show of solidarity comes as the FBI announces plans to partner with the local Muslim community to tackle the ever growing threat of terrorism.
"In response to recent divisive and hurtful rhetoric that targets members of our community," Jonathan Zur, President of the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities, said. "We stand together!" replied faith leaders in unison.
It was a strong showing of support after terror attacks at home and abroad set off a slew calls to ban Muslims from entering the country. "In the face of efforts to promote fear of people considered to be the other... We stand together!" faith leaders declared.
Barring Syrian refugees from seeking asylum in the U.S. is equally egregious declared those in attendance. "Outside of Native Americans, we are all Immigr ants of some kind. Many of us refugees," said Rabbi Ben Romer. "I will not accept a climate of fear."
More than 50 faith leaders gathered at the Islamic Center of Virginia, and it all comes as the FBI goes on the record about partnering with local Muslim leaders to keep you safe. "The number one thing that we do before we do anything else is to prevent the next terrorist attack," said Special Agent Adam S. Lee. "These folks want to join us in that fight, and it is a fight."
Special Agent Lee said both the Internet and social media are breeding grounds for radicalized lone wolves, which is why he's enlisting the help of the local Islamic community. "We are in a new unprecedented threat environment across the United States, and we are not insulated in Richmond, Va.," Lee said. "What people need to do is be alert but not to be paralyzed by anxiety."
Faith leaders, especially Muslim leaders, are pledging to do their part in fighting the war on terror. "Of course, that's our duty," said Imam Ammar Amonette with the Islamic Center of Virginia. "If anyone knew of a crime, or a dangerous individual or person, who was threatening anyone in the community, it's our responsibility, of course, to report that to law enforcement."
Faith leaders plan to release an online public statement for members of the community to sign in the coming week. The statement will be placed on their website.
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