The Interfaith Council of North Orange County is a group of the religious of all stripes who hold events to promote understanding and satisfy general curiosity on spiritual matters.

The roughly 20 active members – Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews and Christians, as well as followers of many other religions – meet to discuss what unifies their faiths and hold events for the public.

The group allows the faithful to share their beliefs respectfully, providing a forum that the members say is all too uncommon in this age of polarized politics and widespread ignorance of others’ traditions.

“It’s never been easy to wear a turban and a beard in the U.S., and after 9/11, it just got worse,” said Arinder Chadha, a panelist for one of the group’s discussion sessions.

Chadha is a practicing Sikh, a religion that developed in India that requires its members to wear traditional turbans and uncut beards. Though Sikhism is unrelated to Islam, it was an Arizona Sikh who was the first to be murdered in outrage after the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001. . .

Hussam Ayloush, who is the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Southern California, said such events were important, especially for American Muslims who may sometimes feel “under siege” as the U.S. wages war in predominantly Islamic nations.

“We unfortunately have let the extremists define who we are,” Ayloush said. “Many times, instead of explaining what the religion is, we have to spend time explaining what it is not. According to some polls, 60 to 70 percent of people in America know little about Islam. Four out of 10 admit unfavorable views and biases against Muslims.”


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