Man Holds Up ‘You Belong’ Sign Outside a Mosque in Texas
It comes as no surprise that many individuals were hit hard emotionally after the results of the presidential election, with many groups of people experiencing messages of hate and intolerance. Now more than ever, we need individuals to take a stand in the name of tolerance and solidarity. Justin Normand is such an individual. Normand, 53, achieved viral fame after an image of him holding up a sign outside of the Islamic Center of Irving, Texas made the rounds. The sign reads, “You belong. Stay strong. Be blessed. We are one America.” The image has been liked and shared hundreds of thousands of times on Facebook.
In his moving post, Normand expresses how the election impacted him, putting him at a “loss,” and as such he felt the need to do something. Normand manages a sign shop, and he went to work on a sign meant to “share the peace” with the Muslim members of the center he refers to as his “marginalized, fearful, decent, targeted, Muslim neighbors.” He explains that his act was not to attack those “right-wing haters,” but rather it was about “binding up the wounded.” Normand details how the act gave him a sense of doing something, anything, to help. “I felt better for the impact it had on my neighbors,” he said. “They genuinely needed this encouragement. They need us. They need all of us. They need you. We ARE one America.” He credits his faith as the engine powering his need to help his fellow man. He also told the Dallas Morning News that while he doesn’t regularly wear a cowboy hat, he recognized that it was an integral image of Texas life, and needed to be shown in solidarity with the Muslim community. Nick Pelletier, the director of outreach at the Islamic Center of Irving, encountered Normand on Saturday and recorded their meeting on Facebook: Pelletier and Normand greeted each other, with Pelletier asking Normand why he felt the need to do what he is doing. “There’s not much I can do between now and four years from now,” Normand says. “But this is something I can do. Be your fellow citizen.” “Our house is your house,” Pelletier said to Normand. Let’s hope more individuals like Justin Normand rise up and voice their understanding and their compassion wherever and whenever it’s needed.
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