Western Pa. religious leaders extend hands to Muslims

ISIS had just claimed credit for a deadly siege of Paris, and the Rev. David Carver felt perturbed by derogatory remarks about Muslims flaring up on national television, in the streets of Pittsburgh and in the pews of his church.


So Carver, 55, pastor of First United Presbyterian Church of Crafton Heights, reached out to leaders of a mosque in a former Presbyterian church a few miles southwest, the Attawheed Islamic Center in Carnegie: “I imagine this is probably a difficult time to be a Muslim in America,” Carver told them by email, asserting his church stood against racism and Islamophobia.


Carver got an immediate reply, and on a recent Sunday, he hosted several Muslim leaders on a tour of his Christian church. They talked about their similarities and differences.


One Muslim leader emphasized his loyalty to America before the congregation, prompting loud applause. When Carver asserted the Jesus he knows would not tolerate hatred, he recalled a Muslim visitor beside him began to weep, and said, “I never thought I would hear such words of acceptance from a Christian.”


In Western Pennsylvania and across the nation, religious leaders spanning a wide range of faiths are getting increasingly vocal and proactive in their support for the Muslim community. They’re working to educate the American public about Islam and to reshape national conversations of religion, refugees and terrorism.


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