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FBI honors mosque leader

by William Sanders | April 22, 2020 at 2:25 a.m.

Sophia Said, chairwoman of the Madina Institute and Mosque and executive director of the Interfaith Center of Arkansas, received the FBI Director's 2019 Community Leadership Award, according to an FBI Little Rock news release.

The award was founded in 1990 to honor individuals and organizations for fighting crime, terrorism, drugs and violence in the United States, the release said.

Said was recognized for her contributions to fighting religious hate crimes and terrorism with partners in law enforcement, according to the release.

"Ms. Said is an invaluable partner for us," FBI Little Rock Special Agent in Charge Diane Upchurch said. "Her work in bringing together law enforcement agencies, religious congregations and community leaders for FBI-led civil rights and terrorism training has benefited our whole state."

Said said bringing together leaders for development training focused on these types of incidents and preventing them is important work.

"Firstly, I feel it is extremely important to educate people about different faiths, so there is an enhanced awareness and tolerance in our communities," Said said. "And secondly I feel it's also very important to train our faith leaders on how to protect their congregations from these shootings that we see happening in mosques, temples and churches."

Said worries about the safety of the community in her mosque.

"It deeply impacts me," Said said. "I'm a Muslim. I run a mosque. I'm the head of a mosque, and I worry about my congregation's safety every single night when I go to bed, so it's really important for me to make sure our communities are safe."

Said thanked the FBI for its attention in preventing violence and hate crimes against religious groups.

"I'm happy the FBI acknowledges the importance of this work, and they are a strong partner with us in this work," Said said. "So that acknowledgement and that endorsement it's a warm sign for us that law enforcement also recognizes the importance of protecting faith communities."

Metro on 04/22/2020

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