Stephen Winkler is an American Muslim who has lived in Santa Clarita since 1987. He wears a hat donning the American flag and a shirt promoting an American political party. By all accounts, he is an American,
Although, in those 30 years of living in Santa Clarita, he has noticed a marked decline in acceptance towards people of the Islamic faith.
“This is the lowest point (since 1987),” said Winkler.
Dispelling notions that have led to this political climate was the idea behind The Santa Clarita Community Forum: “Building Strength through Diversity” which was held at The Centre in Santa Clarita Saturday evening.
Seven panelists with varying perspectives on the topic and Santa Clarita Mayor Cameron Smyth were all present to share their views about the undue biases that are prevalent not just in Santa Clarita but throughout America.
“Our main goal is to reach out to the rest of the community…(and) try to dispel some of the notions that the larger community might have about Islam especially with what is going about terrorism,” said Majub El-Arabi of the Al-Umma Center of Santa Clarita Valley, which was one of three organizations which sponsored the event. ”
“Islam does not represent that, Islam is totally against (terrorism),” said El-Arabi.
Over one-hundred, multi-cultural community members were present to hear the reality of what Islam represents—a religion of peace, as El-Arabi points out.
“It was incumbent upon us to reach out…and show the actual reality,” he said. “We are peace-loving U.S. citizens.”
The local Muslim community was inspired to hold this forum after President Donald Trump passed an executive order barring people from several Muslim Countries.
“What’s next? said El-Arabi. “It left a lot of room for imagination for the worse things that can happen.”
In fact Mayor Cameron Smyth was present to introduce a resolution “to reaffirm Santa Clarita’s commitment to a diverse, supportive and inclusive community.”
“While it doesn’t have teeth if you while, but it’s a message that we want people to feel comfortable here in Santa Clarita…regardless of your religion (and) ethnicity.” said Smyth in an interview with The Signal.
“You should feel safe here (and) you should feel comfortable here.”
He insists that both the institution of Santa Clarita and most of the community does not associate Islam with terrorism.
“An overwhelming majority of this community recognizes the distinction and knows that just because someone is of the Islam religion…doesn’t mean they condone or support any of the horrific terrorist crimes that you see.”
“There is a vast difference between those who practice their faith and radical terrorism.”
The Islamic Center of Santa Clarita Valley and Santa Clarita Interfaith Council also sponsored the event.