What do you do when a protester stands outside your place of worship preaching words of hatred and intolerance?

If you attend the Noor Islamic Cultural Center, you give them a hug and free breakfast.

The mosque was prepared for angry protesters and signs after a Facebook campaign tried to organize picketing at dozens of mosques around the United States on Oct. 10.

With police and heavy hearts at the ready, the people who gathered to defend the mosque in Columbus, Ohio were surprised to be met with just a single protester–and, with a single act of kindness, that number went from one to zero.

While many tried to welcome the lone protester and offer her coffee and bagels, she repeatedly refused and stayed outside holding two signs denigrating Islam.

Then an inspiration came to Cynthia DeBoutinkhar, who bravely went up to “Annie” and asked a daring question – could she embrace the protester with a hug? The answer was a reluctant yes.

Annie agreed to walk into the building that housed a culture and religion that she honestly believed she hated.  She agreed to accompany the group on a complete tour of the mosque. In the ladies room Cynthia took off her hijab, “so she could see that I’m just a normal woman.”

By the end of the tour, which included classrooms filled with children, and a glimpse of afternoon prayers in session,  the president of the mosque answered her questions enthusiastically. He also presented the Annie with an English Quran as a gift.

Afterwards the two women discussed  topics from holy books to Jesus, miracles and more, for two hours.

“You were all really nice,” Annie told them when she finally turned to go (without her posters!). “I had no idea Muslims could be nice to me, even after I stood out there with those signs… Sorry.”

Based on an article by Christina Caballero  http://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/  Oct 19, 2015