HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania politician who apologized for criticizing a church that posted a message wishing Muslims a "blessed Ramadan" attended a worship service and dined at a Harrisburg mosque.
School board member Matthew Jansen, invited to attend the Hadee Mosque on Friday, told members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community that his remarks earlier were part of a "knee-jerk reaction."
Jansen is a member of the Spring Grove Area School District, based in York County, in the Harrisburg area.
"I don't mean to minimize the gravity of what I said, but essentially it's just that, being feisty and trying to start a conversation and an argument, that's just who I am," said Jansen, an elected delegate to the Republican National Convention who supports Donald Trump.
Jansen called to complain earlier this month after St. Paul's United Church of Christ, in Dallastown, posted a message on its sign "Wishing a blessed Ramadan to our Muslim neighbors." The Rev. Christopher Rodkey said the caller termed the sign "despicable" and referred to Islam as a "godless" and "pagan" religion. Jansen also posted a photo of the sign on social media with the church's phone number, but later apologized for what he called "venting."
At the mosque, Jansen and members listened to a service by Hassan Ahmed, who said the violence of some Muslims is not condoned by the faith. Jansen later told the crowd that he hadn't previously known anything about Ahmadiyya Muslim community, which has been in the United States for nearly 100 years, and adding that he believed learning about the community would take away misconceptions about Muslims. He later sat down with members of the mosque for the meal Muslims partake in after sunset during Ramadan.
Jansen said he accepted the mosque's invitation earlier in the week because "whenever somebody graciously invites you to their hospitality, I think it's rude not to accept it."
"I thought it was informative and enlightening," he said. "This sect that is inside Islam is peaceful ... This is a group of people that has become an integral part of society."
Ahmed said Jansen's appearance was productive, and after hearing Jansen's explanation of his call to the pastor, he believed Jansen's intentions were good.
"(His appearance) shows that he is open-minded," Ahmed said.
Akram Khalid, a member of the mosque from Chambersburg, said he was happy Jansen came, adding that he wasn't upset about the earlier remarks.
"The problem is not to get upset, the problem is education," he said.