RNA - The anonymous author said he or she felt the beliefs of Islam were inconsistent with American values in the Dec. 1 letter. The author also said that he or she would do anything possible "to prevent the further entry of Muslims in this country." The letter was written to "Islamic Centers of America" and was post-marked in Brockton, Massachusetts.
"We understand that in this free country people are free to express their views and opinion," the Islamic Society's Facebook post said. "There is always room for more understanding."
Colchester police Lt. Doug Allen said other Islamic centers in New England had also received the letter. He said the letter expressed no direct threat to the mosque in Colchester.
"It certainly was concerning for us that someone espouses those views," Allen said Tuesday.
An outpouring of support for the mosque followed in the weeks since the letter was received. Messages posted on the society's Facebook page and hundreds of letters in the mail from Vermonters expressed love and encouragement to the society, said Imam Islam Hassan.
Last Friday, about 200 people from 36 faiths gathered at the Islamic Society in Colchester for a weekly Muslim prayer service in expression of friendship and solidarity. Vermont Interfaith Action, a faith-based, grassroots coalition of 44 congregations, sponsored the gathering. Rev. Mara Dowdall of the First Unitarian Universalist Society in Burlington said the event "really captured the best of our world."
Dowdall presented to members of the Islamic Society a box of letters from members of her congregation.
"When we heard about the letter that the Islamic Society received, our hearts just broke," Dowdall said. "For me this was really showing what can happen when we all show up for each other."
Imam Hassan said members of the Islamic Society of Vermont were grateful for the outpouring of support and want to reciprocate by hosting a dinner in the near future for those who had offered their friendship. He also said he wished the letter writer had provided a name or return address so Hassan could reach out and have a conversation about Islamic beliefs.
"He needs to be educated," Hassan said. "He did not give us a chance to educate him, which is so sad. ... I believe conversation is essential to solving problems. Ignorance is the main disease. If you don't know something, how can you judge it?"
Dowdall said the letter shows that hate can show up anywhere, and it is important for people to come together in solidarity against negative sentiments.
"We all have a responsibility to make and create together the world that we want to have, where people can practice their religion in freedom and where we can take care of one another," Dowdall said.