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Man Holding "You Belong" Sign Outside Irving Mosque Comes Forward

posted on: Dec 1, 2016

BY: Nisreen Eadeh/Staff Writer

Over the weekend, an image of a white-bearded man in a cowboy hat holding a sign outside a mosque in Irving, Texas went viral. The sign read: “You belong. Stay strong. Be blessed. We are one America.”

The man in the photo initially remained unidentified, but he stepped forward on Tuesday to introduce himself. Justin Normand is the man who held the sign and explained why he did it in a lengthy Facebook post. He revealed that since Election Day, he has been at a loss for what to do to make things better for his “marginalized, fearful, decent, targeted, Muslim neighbors.”

As the manager of a sign shop, Normand decided to print his positive message and stand outside his local mosque. He wanted to show compassion and empathy for his Muslim neighbors out of his own Presbyterian religion. “This was about washing my brother’s feet,” said Normand. He used this Facebook post to share lessons of goodness and service as he was taught in his faith.

“I felt better for the impact it had on my neighbors. They genuinely needed this encouragement,” Normand concluded on his Facebook post.

Normand’s message was shared and appreciated by thousands of Americans across several platforms. His camaraderie is coming at a pivotal moment in America, where Muslims are facing an alarming increase in hate crimes (up 67% in 2015 and 6% in 2016). The Islamic Center of Irvine, where Normand stood with his sign, has been the target of armed demonstrations by anti-Muslim protestors.

After the Paris terrorist attacks in November 2015, the group “Stop the Islamization of America” protested outside the Irving mosque with weapons, inducing fear within the Muslim community. This event is just one of many that have occurred outside American mosques in retaliation to terrorism that has no connection to their Muslim neighbors.

Americans can either choose to fight against discrimination and hate, or they can be silent. Justin Normand chose to stand with his American neighbors and show them some much-needed love.