WEST VALLEY CITY — Members of Utah's Muslim community are expressing relief at the death of Osama bin Laden and hope for a new beginning for all Americans.
Imam Mohammed Mehtar, the religious leader of the Khadeeja Mosque in West Valley City, said Monday he and his congregation welcome the news that Osama bin Laden is no longer a threat. He hopes this will bring a desire for understanding among people of different faiths.
And coincidence or not, the pastor of a Utah Presbyterian Church took a big step in that direction Monday.
The death of bin Laden means freedom from bullying, a ninth-grader told his religious leader.
"This really shook me," said Mehtar, of the Khadeeja Mosque. "He said, 'At least tomorrow I can go to school and people will not mock and laugh at me.' This, I think, means a lot for the future of our youth and the future of our community as well.
"When an individual uses the name of Islam to take away the lives of innocent people, that is something I think all religions are against, including Islam," he said. "What we need now is a greater level of interfaith dialogue, I think more of forgiveness and to learn not to hold onto baggage of the past because that only really hurts ourselves. The Western world and Islamic world have to have a shared vision."
There were no jubilant celebrations at the mosque, but prayers for peace and a hope. Utah Muslims say they believe people of all faiths can move forward together.
Abdul Afridi was born in Pakistan and still has family members there. He is an American citizen, who has lived here for more than 32 years. He and his wife, their six children and seven grandchildren, hope that now with bin Laden gone, people will stop making fun of them.
"When my children in middle school heard the news, they said, 'That's good, at least we won't be bothered anymore.' We have been having a lot of problems," he said.
When his family goes to the grocery store, he says they are often "picked on."
"And I have a beard. A lot of time, if I'm crossing a neighborhood, they'll call me, 'Hey, you are a brother of bin Laden,'" Afridi said.
"We're hoping there will be great peace in the whole world. Utah is our home, this is our country. We don't want to see these things repeat," he said. "It took a long time but at least justice was served yesterday."
Giving free copies of the Quran to anyone who comes into The King's English Bookshop may help that goal of peace.
"It's just an opportunity to kind of get an understanding," said Anne Holman, general manager of the bookstore. "This is a holy book for millions and millions and millions of people in the world and what does it say? People are intrigued. They have been calling every day, wanting (to know), 'Are they here yet?' We have had quite a few teachers come in wanting them for their students."
The books became available Monday but the idea came weeks ago as a reaction to Florida pastor Terry Jones who threatened to burn the Quran in protest to what he and the 50 members of his congregation in Gainsville see as a public criticism of Islam. That threat came on the anniversary of 9/11 last year. But he didn't burn them until March of this year. Weeks later, protesters in Afghanistan killed 12 U.N. workers.
The free books are the idea of a Salt Lake pastor and his congregation.
"This isn't about promoting Islam or even the Quran. We're offering them and telling people to read this and make your own judgment about it," said Reverend Scott Delgarno, pastor of Wasatch Presbyterian Church, which supplied the books.
"We're so firm in our faith that we're fine with people reading the scripture of another faith. Islam is obviously at a crossroads with decisions in favor of democracy in the Arab world," he said. "Things are very different and we would like to encourage those decisions that move the Arab world and our world toward peace."