Petaluma has long been a welcoming and tolerant community, and residents of the city proved that once again recently with their embrace of the local Islamic Center.
Amid rising tensions nationally that include racist graffiti, threats leveled at mosques and increased anti-Muslim rhetoric from the White House, Petalumans have come together to show support for our Muslim community.
The Islamic Center of Petaluma has quietly existed on Bassett Street for nearly two decades, but has received increased attention recently due to the rise in hate crimes across the country. As a proactive measure, members of the Islamic Center, most of whom are originally from Pakistan, held an outreach event earlier this month.
More than 300 Petalumans, mostly non-Muslims, turned out to learn about Islam from a respected imam, and to show solidarity.
Residents living near the Islamic Center wrote letters of support to their Muslim neighbors, which have been proudly displayed on a bulletin board at the entrance to the mosque.
“Dear neighbors,” one reads. “We want you to know, during this perilous time, that we want you here. Every person in this house of worship is welcomed and respected.”
This touching show of unity is not surprising from residents of Petaluma. Last month, Petalumans showed up in droves to a city council meeting in support of a resolution affirming the protection of undocumented immigrants from federal agents.
Last week, Petalumans held separate rallies to back some of the community’s most vulnerable, some of whom were at risk of losing health care coverage due to the threatened repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and others who will be impacted due to federal budget cuts to social programs like Meals on Wheels.
Many Petalumans have participated in marches affirming the rights of women and the LGBT community.
It is unfortunate that, in this current climate of polarization in the country, these public displays of support are necessary. It should be assumed that everyone in our community is welcome and protected, irrespective of their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
But there is a real hostility directed against traditionally protected groups of people in this country, and they need support. When it is time to stand up for the vulnerable and marginalized, Petaluma always makes its voice heard.