Their first goal in rural N.C. was disaster relief. The other: Being the face of Islam in a red state.

At the end of the day, they moved as a group through the halls of a rural high school, which had been transformed into a shelter. They passed a crowd of locals — including volunteers and people displaced by the record-setting floods — and the words on their blue vests seemed to catch everyone’s eye: “Islamic Relief.”

“Are they Islamic?” one woman whispered to the person next to her. Others simply stared.

And it was true. They were Muslim, and they had come from all over the country to the traditionally red state of North Carolina. Islamic Relief USA has been around for more than two decades, but in a year when Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has frequently cast Muslims as violent radicals, the charity’s volunteers say they have been thrust into the role of unofficial ambassadors for the real Muslim America.

Plodding in their blue disaster-relief vests through neighborhoods devastated by floods, tornadoes and fires, they frequently encounter people who are “pretty surprised to see Muslims,” said Hani Hamwi, 29, the charity’s disaster response team manager.

The Post’s Abigail Hauslohner has spent the past week with Islamic Relief USA in Pembroke, North Carolina which flooded during Hurricane Matthew. She walks through one the relief centers using Facebook Live. (The Washington Post)

Read More: Washington Post


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