Open forum held in Alameda for better understanding of Islam

ALAMEDA, Calif. (KGO) -- People of all faiths and even police gathered in the East Bay in an effort to bring a better understanding of Islam and try to stop attacks against the faith. The theme of the open forum, held in Alameda, was standing against hate crimes and it follows several incidents involving Bay Area mosques.

Many people shared concerns and spread ideas of how the Bay Area can come together in a time when many Muslims feel their religion is under attack.

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Rami Elkinawy with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, says it hasn't been this bad in years.

"I would say after 9/11 there was definitely a lot of tension that happened, but nothing like this. This has been much worse and it ties back to this whole notion of ISIS. ISIS is definitely a fringe group that doesn't represent Muslims or Islam at all," Elkinawy explained.

Vandals broke a window at the Islamic Center of Alameda's former building just a couple of weeks ago.

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In Richmond, police detonated a pipe bomb at the home of a man accused of making threats to the Islamic Society of West Contra Costa County. Saturday morning in Tracy, a mosque was damaged after being hit by what appeared to be a Molotov cocktail.

"Overall there have been 70 incidents that have affected Islamic centers and mosques across the country, which is really unprecedented. So we want authorities to be more proactive and just look at this as a hate crime," Elkinawy said.

CAIR directors say there's been an uptick in vandalism, attacks, and intimidation of Muslims. Among those attending the forum was Father Louis Vitale from Oakland. The well-known priest and human rights activist has been arrested hundreds of times.

"You know, the Universe belongs to all people, all people," said Vitale.

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