Zahra Billoo (Courtesy Photo)
By Thomas K. Pendergast
(Originally published in the June, 2015, issue of the Sunset Beacon newspaper, a community news source serving the Sunset District of San Francisco.)
A Pew Research Center report called "The Future of Global Muslim Population," released in January of 2011, estimates that Islam is the second-largest religion, with 1.57 billion adherents, or more than 23 percent of the world’s total population.
Christianity is the largest, at about 31 percent of the world’s population, the report says.
In the United States, however, the report estimates there are 2,595,000 Muslims, which out of a total population of around 330 million, makes them less than one percent of the total population. So it is not surprising that many Americans know very little about the religion and perhaps have never actually met or gotten to know a Muslim.
Zahra Billoo is a civil rights attorney and the Executive Director for the SF Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and she was invited to speak to the members of the Sunset Heights Association of Responsible People (SHARP) about Islam in the US and answer questions at a recent SHARP meeting.
Among the many aspects of Islam she discussed is the fear and prejudice against Muslims that her community encounters. While much of this is personal and unorganized, there is also what she calls the “Islamophobia industry.”
“There are a handful of organizations, foundations and activists that are spending literally millions of dollars to put out negative messaging about Islam and about Muslims,” said Billoo.