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Meet a Muslim Day event aimed at ending stereotypes

Columbus, Ohio Muslims talked with people Saturday, March 11, 2017, outside Nationwide Arena on Meet a Muslim Day. (WSYX/WTTE)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSYX/WTTE) - The first national Meet a Muslim Day is drawing crowds across the country and here in Central Ohio. Organizers said the event comes amidst increased fear and a new travel ban fueling anti-Muslim rhetoric.

At Nationwide Arena downtown, Muslims carrying homemade signs greeted people attending sports events on Saturday. "Ask Me Anything," they said.

Kafal Salam is 24 years old and said he was born in New York but has spent 23 years in Columbus. Salam attended The Ohio State University and was wearing a Buckeye ball cap.

"Kind of the feedback that we were given from people was like, hey, this is amazing, this is great to see, great to hear, just kind of dispelling the notion of Islam being kind of like a bad religion or violent religion. When you talk to people, when you put a face to, like, hey, we are just average Americans. We are just going around saying I go to work, I pay my bills, go to the gym, I went to OSU," said Salam.

"People are scared of what they don't know and so if people don't know what Islam is and they say we are seeing all these bad things in different points of the world," said Salam.

Columbus Police reached out to the Muslim men. Officers offered to get them coffee since it was such a cold day. "You hear stories are how some people are like, hey, you know what I hated Islam, I hated Muslims but after meeting you guys I found out you know what, that wasn't right," said Salam.

Muslims make up about 1 percent of the U.S. population and many Americans say they don't have any contact with Muslims.

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