Nacogdoches woman leads grassroots effort to support, encourage - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

Nacogdoches woman leads grassroots effort to support, encourage local Muslims

Muhammad Abdullah (left) and Abdirahman Guled are leaders at the mosque. Immigration rules are making some members nervous, but overall they don’t feel threatened. (Source: KTRE Staff) Muhammad Abdullah (left) and Abdirahman Guled are leaders at the mosque. Immigration rules are making some members nervous, but overall they don’t feel threatened. (Source: KTRE Staff)
The Islamic Center of Nacogdoches has been in its building for about 3 months. Leaders say they are part of the community. (Source: KTRE Staff) The Islamic Center of Nacogdoches has been in its building for about 3 months. Leaders say they are part of the community. (Source: KTRE Staff)
Welcoming letters will be delivered Feb. 9 to the Islamic Center of Nacogdoches. (Source: KTRE Staff) Welcoming letters will be delivered Feb. 9 to the Islamic Center of Nacogdoches. (Source: KTRE Staff)
Heather Olson Beal is providing an open letter for community members to attach their name. She will also deliver personal notes. (Source: KTRE Staff) Heather Olson Beal is providing an open letter for community members to attach their name. She will also deliver personal notes. (Source: KTRE Staff)
NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) -

Amid the tension caused by President Donald Trump’s recent executive order temporarily banning travel to the U.S. from seven Middle Eastern countries, there is a burgeoning grassroots movement to send words of support and encouragement to the Islamic Center of Nacogdoches.

From its new location, The Islamic Center of Nacogdoches provides Muslims an accessible place for daily prayers.

"We have about 200 families here in Nacogdoches that worship here at the mosque,” said Muhammad Abdullah, an Islamic Center board member.

Abdullah said government leaders, churches, and individuals have been nothing but welcoming. Some citizens wanted to provide security.  

"You know, make sure we are okay here at the mosque,” Abdullah said. “It's a love for humanity that people are showing."

The offer was graciously declined. Another act of kindness will be accepted. 

It's a grassroots letter writing campaign. Heather Olson Beal is attaching names of those who want to be included on a letter she wrote. 

"We recognize that we have important work to do to make Nacogdoches, the State of Texas, and the United States the kind of welcoming, inclusive community we want it to be for all,” Beal said.

Next week Beal will also deliver personal cards, notes, and drawings to the Islamic Center. The educator is an activist, but views nothing political about the letters. Instead, it's a message of support.

"To be welcomed here,” Beal said. “To feel like they're valued community members."

"I love Nacogdoches, mother of Texas,” said Abdirahman Guled, a leader in the town’s Somali community.

Guled, whom his friends call Abdee, is so encouraged. Two years ago, the Somali community leader was guiding Muslims to an apartment for worship.

"A lot of change from that time to this time,” Guled said.

Not all the change has been for the better in some places, so as a Somali community leader, Abdee said he wants Nacogdoches residents to understand Muslims are their neighbors. Good neighbors. 

"Even I'm an American citizen,” Guled said. “Some of my brothers and sisters are Americans. Some are green-card holders, so we are part of the community."

 A letter writing campaign may lead to dialogue, so future generations can grow up feeling safe and welcomed. 

Letter writing organizers can be e-mailed or reached on Facebook. Contact Shelby Laird, Heather Olson Beal, or Elaine Lambright. Click this link for Beal’s Facebook page.

Personal messages can be dropped off at Heather Olson Beal's office in the McKibben Building or the Office of International Programs in Language Arts North. Both are on the Stephen F. Austin State University campus.

The letters will be delivered a week from today. 

Copyright 2017 KTRE. All rights reserved.

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