It was an impressive number of Mid-Columbians that turned out the other night to learn more about the Muslim world.
The community forum on Islam at the Tri-Tech Skills Center in Kennewick drew nearly 200 people who wanted to learn more about what Muslims really believe.
We're hoping it was the start of a lasting dialogue between Muslims and other members of our community.
Muslims number more than 1 billion worldwide. They don't deserve to be defined by the violent few who have subverted the religion to justify their terrorist acts.
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President Bush issued a poignant reminder of that fact in the wake of the terrorists attacks on America on Sept. 11, 2001.
"The face of the terrorist is not the true faith of Islam. That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don't represent peace, they represent evil and war," he said.
"When we think of Islam, we think of a faith that brings comfort to a billion people around the world. Billions of people find comfort and solace and peace. And that's made brothers and sisters out of every race, out of every race.
"America counts millions of Muslims amongst our citizens, and Muslims make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country," Bush added.
Unfortunately, the rest of America's acceptance of those millions of our countrymen is undermined each time a terrorist lashes out.
Resisting the prejudices such acts promote isn't just the right thing to do, it's essential in the war against terrorism. Anything that widens the gap between the Muslim world and the West serves the interests of violent extremists.
The opposite is true. Closing the gap helps defeat al-Qaida and other terrorists.
The sponsors of this month's forum on Muslim beliefs and the folks who showed up may not think of themselves as freedom fighters, but we do.