With current events casting a shadow on their religion, Muslim communities look for understanding

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METAIRIE, La. (WGNO) - Imam Abdur Rahman Bashir is the religious leader at the Masjid Abu Bakr mosque in Metairie. He says the Muslims who pray there come from 30-40 different nations and ethnic backgrounds.

Like so many around the world, Bashir says he felt the pain of the November 13 attacks in Paris, and had another rush of emotion after Wednesday's mass shooting in San Bernardino, California.

“When things unfolded and I heard about the names and that they were Muslim, I had the same thing in my mind, 'Here we go again,' because we constantly have to be on alert for our own safety,” says Bashir.

A big challenge for the Muslim community, Bashir says, is to overcome misinformation and ignorance.

Community outreach at his mosque includes a six-week course called "Islam 101," which is free, and open to the public. To find out more about the Jefferson Muslim Association, click here.

“When these type of things happen it is a wake-up call for us as Muslims and it is a test and a challenge it is something for us to step up to, to show the world what Islam is really all about. Just think about it. If Islam encouraged and endorsed terrorism and the Quran was a violent scripture, then we would have 1.8 billion terrorists throughout the world,” he says, noting the number of Muslims in the world.

Instead he says the number of Muslim terrorists is a fraction of one percent of that number, and he says the Muslim terrorists are “bad apples,” people who manipulate the religion, cherry-picking texts and creating even more misunderstanding.

“In the Holy Quran, God has said explicitly that whoever kills a person unjustly it as if he has killed all of humanity. So the murder of an innocent person, that person goes with the sin of killing all of mankind,” he says.

His next sermon will once again focus on facing the challenges of today's world.

“This is not a crisis just for the Muslim community, but it is a crisis for the entire world. I mean you can't spell crisis without ISIS,” he says.

He’s thankful that Muslims in New Orleans have felt little backlash, and credits the city’s diverse culture.

“I think the diversity of this city contributes to tolerance. I love this city. It's a good city,” he says with a smile.