Justin Normand has a message for Dallas-area Muslims.
Wearing a cowboy hat, flannel, and a pair of blue jeans, the white-haired Texan held up a sign outside the Islamic Center of Irving with a message of solidarity written in red and blue: “You belong. Stay strong. Be blessed. We are one America.”
Inspired by a startling rise in hate crimes against Muslims, Normand, who manages a local sign shop, decided to use some of his free time on the Friday after Thanksgiving to make a statement.
“I made a sign, and I drove to the nearest mosque and stood out on the public sidewalk to share the peace with my neighbors. My marginalized, fearful, decent, targeted, Muslim neighbors,” he explained on Facebook after watching a photo of himself with the sign go viral.
“For me, this wasn’t about expressing agreement; I remain Presbyterian, not Muslim. It wasn’t about demonstrating my outrage to right-wing drivers driving down Esters Road in front of the mosque. I can never, and will never, change any of the haters. It’s not about them. Not this time, and not here,” he wrote. “This was about binding up the wounded. About showing compassion and empathy for the hurting and fearful among us.”
Normand said he’s been bothered by recent political events, and thought about taking a stand for some time before finally building up the courage to do so. And he’s glad he did. Better yet, he says it worked.
“I felt better for the impact it had on my neighbors,” he closed the Facebook post by saying. “They genuinely needed this encouragement. They need us. They need all of us. They need you. We ARE one America.”