Video: Are they to fear? Muslim community in Pittsburgh responds to hate mail

(Viewer discretion advised)

Imagine a world without hate, an America where people of different races and religions trust one another, respect each other and care for one another, like good neighbors and friends. That’s not the world we live in. This video is about today’s America, where fear and hate can overshadow the good.

I’d like to challenge you to confront your fear and meet some of the people who recently welcomed this stranger into their house of worship.

Meet Wasiullah Mohamed, executive director of the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh. He greets everyone, friend or stranger, the same way: with a warm smile. Born and raised in Harrisburg, he chuckles at the hate mail telling him to “go back where he came from.” He is easy to befriend. And he will not let you leave the mosque hungry, even if it means giving up his own plate. Is he to fear?

Meet the men holding a bake sale to raise money for feeding the homeless. With enthusiasm, they display their handmade fundraising poster and baked goods. Are they to fear?

Meet the brothers and sisters in Islam who volunteer to teach Sunday school each week. With pride, they show you their students’ artwork and teach the children not only how to be a good Muslim, but also how to be a good person. Are they to fear?

Meet the children. Playing duck, duck, goose; peering into my camera lens as adults gather for Friday prayer; and giggling as they chase me, hoping to get in the video. They are full of innocent mischief and curiosity, just like your own children. Are they to fear?

Meet Imam Abdul Wajid, with the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh. He calls for kindness in the face of hatred. Some of the people in his congregation are afraid; they find comfort in the support from strangers who visit or send cards and flowers. He is a man of faith and warmth. Like Wasi, he is an American citizen, born in Chicago. On Sundays, you will find him running Sunday school and handing out candy to children. He will welcome you to his place of worship and make you feel like you belong there, no matter your faith or lack thereof. He will also save some candy for you. Is he to fear?

Since 9/11, Muslims in the Pittsburgh region and across this country have endured hate and a gross misunderstanding of their religion and threats, both direct and indirect. The disdain they feel intensified during the presidential campaign and has persisted into the presidency of Donald Trump. However, they set suspicion and worry aside to open up their world to me, and, ultimately, to you. They want you to imagine a world without fear, an America without hate. Can you?

Reach Guy Wathen at guywathen@gmail.com or on Twitter @GuyWathen.

Documenting hate

We need your help to create a database of such incidents across the country, so we all know what's going on.

By filling out the form below, you are sharing your story with Documenting Hate, a coalition of organizations led by ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative newsroom. We may share this information with our partner newsrooms around the country, including PublicSource in Pittsburgh, and with some civil rights organizations who are working with us on this project. We will not share your name and contact information with anybody outside our coalition without your permission. We are not law enforcement and will not report this information to the police. The Southern Poverty Law Center recommends you do so directly if you are a victim of a crime. We know that you've gone through something traumatic. Thank you for coming forward and telling us what happened.

Tell us your story


  • Lisa

    Intelligent article. May people understand it.