Hate crimes against Muslims are on the increase since 2002, says Dawud Walid, leader of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
And that makes promoting cross-cultural understanding imperative.
"It's incumbent for us to break out of our comfort zones and to learn each other's varying cultural and religious practices," Walid said.
He will be the keynote speaker Thursday at a Lansing event that aims to do just that.
"Building Bridges" is the theme of a Ramadan unity dinner sponsored by Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero and East Lansing Mayor Sam Singh.
Proceeds from the $15-a-ticket dinner benefit the Greater Lansing Food Bank.
"It's an opportunity for everyone in the community to unite together towards a single goal, which is to support the hungry in our community. This is the very spirit of Ramadan," said Sadia Gul, who works in Bernero's office and coordinated the event.
During the holy month of Ramadan, which began Sept. 13 and likely will end Oct. 13, Muslims around the world put an emphasis on prayer and works of charity. They fast through daylight hours and break the fast with festive meals at dusk.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a nationwide civil liberties group with 33 offices nationwide and chapters in the U.S. and Canada, compiles a daily report of nationwide news events involving Muslims.
Some are good news, focusing on education efforts or cross-cultural activities and events. But others are troubling: An attack on worshippers at an Ohio mosque, a family split by a member's deportation, a New York politician who is quoted as saying the U.S. has "too many mosques."
Walid recently participated on a state Department of Civil Rights panel on hate crimes. Besides the harm they do within local communities, he said hate crimes against Muslims in the U.S. also have a global impact.
"Hate crimes and civil rights abuses against Muslims in America tarnish our image in the Muslim world," he said. "When we have had discrimination cases in Michigan, I've been called by media outlets from Qatar to Iran." (MORE)