By John Ramos

SAN RAFAEL (KPIX 5) – A Bay Area woman is trying to bridge divides of religion and culture. Her mission could not come at a better time.

Moina Shaiq is a Muslim woman from Fremont who is introducing herself to the Bay Area, a place she’s lived for more than 40 years.

“I didn’t realize that after 40 years I’d be reaching out to people and telling them who I am, come meet me! I thought by now people would know me!” Shaiq said.

Shaiq created a program called “Meet a Muslim” where she speaks to groups and answers whatever questions they may have about Muslim people.

She says those who fear Muslims usually don’t know any.

“It’s very important for people to come out and have a one-on-one interaction so they can talk to me, so they can see me as a person, as a human being,” Shaiq said.

Shaiq says Muslims are frightened these days and it only gets worse with each new attack, like the one in Manchester.

“There’s no end to this hole for us, as Muslims,” she said. “It just keeps going down and down and down and people keep associating us and people keep thinking it’s the immigrants who are coming and doing all this, which is not the case.”

She knows that those who hate her probably wouldn’t come and that she is usually preaching to the choir.

At the Whistlestop Community Center in San Rafael, people gathered to get to know a complete stranger.

Novato resident Myrna Zelin was in attendance and understood Shaiq’s message.

Zelin said, “We have to take care of each other and care about each other.”

She asks her audience to help her, to speak with their neighbors, to convince them of her humanity.

“Because they know who among their family or friends are those hardcore people.  They only can make a difference, I cannot,” she said.

The idea is simple. It’s easy to fear people until you meet them face-to-face.

Shaiq says her first meeting last year drew more than 100 people and now she averages between one and two gatherings each week.

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