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West Virginia’s Muslims Want Folks to Know Who They Really Are

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According to Imaam Nasir Abdussalam, the Islamic Association of West Virginia has more than 350 families in the congregation, many who work the medical profession. (Dan Heyman)
According to Imaam Nasir Abdussalam, the Islamic Association of West Virginia has more than 350 families in the congregation, many who work the medical profession. (Dan Heyman)
 By Dan HeymanContact
March 11, 2019

CHARLESTON, W. Va. — Islam has been in the news lately, in part because of attacks on the religion at the state Capitol. West Virginia's Muslim community wants people to be able to get accurate information about who they are and what they actually believe.

Nasir Abdussalam is the imam of the Islamic Association of West Virginia. He said the instinct for many might be to get their information online. But in this case, he specifically advises folks to stay off the internet — because there is so much bad information out there.

"That might be impossible for today's people, today's generation. But that would be my first piece of advice, is to try to connect with real people,” Abdussalam said.

A very high proportion of the state's Muslims came to West Virginia to practice medicine or another profession such as engineering. Nationally, Muslims have among the highest average education level of any religious group.

Abdussalam said one place folks can go online to get accurate information about Islam is seekersguidance.org, a mainstream Sunni website based in Canada.

"It's tailored to a Muslim audience,” he said. “But if a non-Muslim were to go to that site, they might not want to enroll in a class, but if they read the blog they can definitely get a sense of a proper understanding of Islam."

A poster and other materials put on display at the state Capitol earlier this month equated Islam with terrorism. But Abdussalam said verses in the Koran specifically prohibit attacks on civilians.

He said leaders of extremist groups sometimes are presented as religious leaders. But he said almost all of them are not actually trained in Islamic law or tenants of the faith.

"None of them are religiously trained,” Abdussalam said. “Bin Laden was an engineer; never studied theology, never studied law."

He said most large cities have mosques, although he admits not all of them are led by native English speakers.

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