SUNNYVALE (KPIX 5) — Dozens came out in a sign of solidarity for the Muslim community Wednesday night, one day before a suspect who is accused of running over people he believed belonged to the Islamic religion is expected to find out whether or not he’ll face hate crime charges.
“We’re all kind of shaken up about what’s going on,” said Zahra Noor, who attended the unity gathering.
“I definitely don’t go out too much, you know,” she said. “Because of the religion, because the way that I look.”
The Islamic Networks Group organized the gathering weeks after Isaiah Peoples was accused of slamming his car into a group of pedestrians because he thought they were Muslim. On Thursday afternoon, the Santa Clara District Attorney’s Office is expected to decide whether Peoples will face hate crime charges.
“I trust Jeff Rosen and I trust law enforcement as well, and so I think if they don’t think it is, then it must not be, but nevertheless we still need to do this work,” said Islamic Networks Group Executive Director Maha Elgenaidi when asked how she would feel if Peoples is not charged with a hate crime.
“We’re dealing with a crisis here and anti-Muslim bigotry and that needs to be addressed.”
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The meeting was organized with the help of city leaders. It included a panel of representatives from other religions who led the discussion about bigotry in the community.
“Hatred, violence and extremism, in all its forms, is not welcome in Sunnyvale,” said Mayor Larry Klein before the packed room.
Elgenaidi said it was important to invite the community to the discussion because of the impact the crash had on them.
“To begin to heal together and to build these bonds and relationships,” she said.
For Noor, she hopes the conversation turns into widespread acceptance.
“The fact that we’re talking about this, we’re bringing more awareness to the topic, hopefully it just disseminates into the community and people can stop having this fear and hatred of someone they don’t know,” said Noor.
Peoples is expected in court at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday.