Tourist Grayson Davidson had never met a Muslim before, and the 18-year-old nursing student was wondering about Islam’s stance on jihad and terrorism.
She got answers about the religion of 1.6 billion from two of its adherents on Saturday afternoon, when she and her mother walked past the New York City chapter of National #MeetaMuslim Day, a nationwide outreach effort meant to encourage people to ask anything about Islam.
The group discussed President Donald Trump’s recent executive order and his campaign promise of “extreme vetting.” Davidson also asked about jihad, and “if terrorists were using that as an excuse. . . for what they’re doing.”
Asad Bajwa of Pennsylvania, one of the Muslims greeting passers-by, said there is no religious justification for violent jihadi terrorism.
“I was born and raised a Muslim, he was born and raised a Muslim,” he said, gesturing to a fellow #AskaMuslim volunteer. “We’ve never heard of it.”
The event, which took place in roughly 100 locations across 50 cities, was hosted by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association, a group for Muslim men and boys. Organizers said it aims to fight what they say is increased animus toward Muslims and a spike in hate crimes.
Saturday’s event comes days after President Donald Trump signed a new executive order banning citizens from six Muslim-majority nations for 90 days, after a prior version was mired in court challenges.
The #AskAMuslim men — a hashtag the group adopted — handed out pamphlets: “True Islam and the Extremists,” which said that the religion “wholly Rejects all forms of Terrorism,” “believes in Non-Violent Jihad of the self and of the pen” and “Loyalty to your Country of residence.”
The Ahmadi are a minority sect considered heretical by some conservative Muslims.
Groups also braved the frigid wind in Times Square.
“I’m with you!” said one red-coated tourist-bus hawker there, shaking hands with local organizer Salaam Bhatti, a lawyer from Queens Village.
“Do you think Americans are scared of Muslims?” asked Joschi Schwarz, 48, a yoga instructor originally from Germany who lives in Hell’s Kitchen.
“Yeah, they’re scared of what they don’t know,” Bhatti said.