Shortly before Asr, late afternoon prayer, at the Islamic Center of Irving, an elder comes over the loud speaker to call the faithful to prayer. Men and women gather in their prayer spaces, facing toward Mecca. During prayer they prostrate themselves, with their heads touched to the floor. Across the world this happens five times daily.
On Saturday, Nov. 28 at the Islamic Center of Irving on Esters Rd., demonstrators outside the mosque supported the worshippers.
Tonya Cadenhead organized the rally in response to the protest staged by the Bureau of American Islamic Relations (B.A.I.R.) the previous week. Holding guns and signs, B.A.I.R. members gathered outside of the mosque on Saturday, Nov. 21 with signs protesting the “Islamization of America.”
From noon to 4 p.m. on Nov. 28, people lined the street in front of the Center holding signs and roses.
This time, the signs read, “Freedom of religion for all” and “No war in Syria.” Another read “Fear breeds hate, not freedom.”
Tied to one of the roses was a blue cutout heart that with a note that read, “Allah is only merciful with those who show mercy to others (saying of the Prophet Muhammad).”
Cadenhead grew up in Irving, Texas and has witnessed the victimization of the Mosque and the Islamic community over the years. After the latest demonstration, she decided to do something about it.
“When I saw those guys last week, it was just kind of the last straw for me, and I wanted to just come out and show [the Islamic community] some love and let them know that Irving is a place of community rather than a place of hate,” Cadenhead said.
Cadenhead organized the “Rally for Peace” and created Facebook event. Thousands were invited; hundreds were interested.
Many people braved the cold, rainy weather to show their support for the Islamic Center of Irving. Reasons for attendance at the event varied: some participants were members of the mosque, others were disappointed with the lack of logic, and others still were fed up with religious intolerance.
Supporters Matt Molewski and Ryan Ragus pointed to disaffection in the country and a lack of understanding and logic as reasons for the initial demonstration by the B.A.I.R.
“It’s people feeling like they don’t have a voice in the process … And I think one of the manifestations of that is people coming out last week and just showing their intolerance towards a local religious group that they don’t understand and that they think is evil,” Molewski said.
Ragus concluded the same thing.
“Since we don’t have communism any more, we had to have a new thing,” Ragus said. “This is what [B.A.I.R.] have picked.”
Cadenhead expressed disappointment with the way Irving city mayor Beth Van Duyne and the Irving City Council have handled the divide between the Islamic community and the city of Irving as a whole. She wants to change the conversation of the Islamic community and Irving.
The demonstration that took place on Saturday is the beginning of a larger movement Cadenhead and Cody Lynch have started, the Peace Initiative.
“We’re going to try and counter [hate organizations] at the same time or follow up — depending on how much notice we get,” Cadenhead said. “You can go to the event page [to] find out all of that information. I know the hate groups are going to keep pushing forward and so we have to counter that with the love.”