GREENSBORO, N.C. — No, you read that right, the sign outside the bookstore says: “Ask a Muslim anything.”
When the rhetoric over Muslims and immigration got a bit heated last fall, Steve Mitchell wanted to inject a little truth and perspective into what he saw as a lot of ill-conceived stereotypes. So he asked his friend Deonna for a suggestion and the, “Ask a Muslim Anything,” sessions were born.
“I want people to have a chance to meet a Muslim – have a conversation with a Muslim – so when they do something on the news that is stereotypical, they will have the power to question it and think, ‘Well, I was just sitting in a room full of Muslims and they weren’t like this’,” says Deonna, whose full name is Deonna Kelli Sayed. Although you might not guess it, by looking at her, she too is a Muslim. She got involved in Islam while working with a Palestinian group when she was in college and came to the faith through that work.
Steve Mitchell is one of the owners of Scuppernong Books in downtown Greensboro and he wanted something no one else was doing.
“We didn’t want to set up an academic thing, where people talked to you about the history and all that,” says Mitchell. “There are plenty of ways for you to do that and find out about those things, if you’re interested. What we really wanted to do was give you a chance to just have a conversation with Muslims in our community.”
Mitchell admits it hasn’t always been like having tea with the queen.
“It’s gotten testy, before, but it’s just gotten testy because people were having differences of opinion,” says Mitchell. “We’ve never really had someone who was just here to be confrontational.”
On this night, one of the community Muslims there to converse is Wasif Qureshi, a Wahabi Muslim from Greensboro and he didn’t back down from any of the questions.
“The toughest question that I think I was ever asked is why does Islam have such an intolerance as Christianity,” says Qureshi. “And my answer was very simple that we don’t, that we actually prescribe to the same patriarch and the patriarch is Abraham.”
These sessions may not change the world, but they may change someone and that’s enough for Steve Mitchell.
“Independent bookstores work one person at a time,” he says.
See the latest session in the edition of the Buckley Report … and check the Scuppernong Books website to see when the next session is scheduled