SHAFAQNA – A hug from a Muslim woman has convinced a protesting anti-Islamic American woman to enter a mosque for the first time and learn more about the religion and the people she said she hated.
Hugs and kindness have won over an anti-Islamic protester who turned up to an American mosque to rally against Muslims.
A video posted on October 10, shot by a group who were there to protest against the planned rally, shows Annie, the lone protester who turned up to Noor Islamic Cultural Center in Columbus, Ohio.
In the nearly 50 minute-long video, Annie, who is not further identified, starts out as combative and aggressive, but gets drawn into a debate about the facts surrounding Islam, Muslims, the Qu’ran and race with historian and scholar Michah David Naziri.
“If you’re Muslim, we can’t be friends,” she said when he approached her.
“My Bible says that.
“Get thee away from me Satan.”
As the debate continued Mr Naziri got Annie to admit she was actually upset about the violence in the Middle East and tried to correct some of the misinformation she had gathered from social media and the internet.
“I just want the murdering and the killing to stop.”
The group around her replied: “We all want that”, and offered to join her in a protest against the violence that was occurring around the world.
“You believe in what you believe and you’re prepared to stand up for it,” Mr Naziri said.
“It’s just unfortunate it’s informed by so much spurious information on the internet.”
The video also shows a young Muslim woman telling Annie the Islamic community was not interested in following sharia law, something Annie was protesting against.
“We follow the US constitution,” the woman said.
Suddenly Muslim woman Cynthia DeBoutinkhar approached Annie and hugged her while other members of the group around her invited her into the mosque “for coffee and bagels”.
“I’ve never set foot inside a mosque,” Annie said.
“It might blow up.”
While she was still hesitant, Annie walked into the msoque, joking that the failed protest had been “a trap”, and took selfies and shook hands with Muslims inside.
The video, and the story of Annie’s eventual visit to the mosque, have gone viral.
Ms DeBoutinkhar said on her Facebook page of the encounter: “Something came over me and I went up to her and asked if I could give her a hug.
“I wouldn’t let go of the hug. I felt her body go from tense to soft and I asked her to please come inside with me. She was actually AFRAID! I asked if I look scary to her. She said I didn’t. I promised her I’d stay right by her side the whole time.
“When we walked in, me carrying one of her two signs, everyone was waiting for her in the lobby. We all began applauding. I stayed by her side as I promised.”
Ms DeBoutinkhar said in her post she took off her hijab “so she could see that I’m just a normal person under my scarf” before taking Annie on a tour of the mosque.
“Once we were in the lobby, I asked the president [of the mosque] if he could answer a couple of her questions,” she said.
“He did, happily. Then he presented Annie with her very own English Quran.”
“Will Annie ever become Muslim? Who knows,” she wrote.
“That’s in God’s hands. But her parting words for me were this: ‘You were all really nice. I don’t approve of the violence or killings (neither do we), but I’ll read this book. I had no idea Muslims could be nice to me, even after I stood out there with those signs. Sorry.'”