Breaking down misconceptions about Islam, Muslims

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SHAFAQNA – Imam Atta-Ul Manan has heard it all.

Muslims want to establish Sharia law wherever they go.

Not all Muslims are terrorists but all terrorists are Muslim.

As a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Manan is part of a nationwide campaign to remove misunderstandings about Muslims and Islam, and to build bridges of peace.

The Islam Understood campaign, as it also did in January, will make a stop at the Centennial branch of the Fort Erie Public Library on Gilmore Road Saturday between noon and 4 p.m.

Events will also simultaneously be running in other communities Saturday, such as at the St. Catharines Public Library on Church Street.

The campaign was launched by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association, which is an auxiliary group of the community.

There will be the holy Quran on display, as well as banners, brochures and educational pamphlets.

“There will be volunteers there so people can come and actually interact with Muslims,” said Manan.

He said despite recent outreach efforts, which have largely proved successful, many people still have “certain reservations” about Muslims and Islam.

“I think the biggest misconception is about Sharia law. Many people … have this understanding that wherever the Muslims are, they want to establish Sharia law. That is furthest from the truth. Whichever country we are in, we are following the rules of that land.”

Sharia law is a set of religious principles which form part of the Islamic tradition.

“There is a misunderstanding many people have, they fear that if we interact with Muslims or if Muslims are allowed to have their way, they will change our way and bring the same sort of system that exists in the Middle East over here,” said Manan.

“This is the wrong understanding, which has been what they see from different terrorist groups. Whatever they’re doing has nothing to do with Islam. They’re trying to advance their own political agendas and unfortunately they’re using the religion of Islam.”

Manan said it’s also unfortunate that when a Muslim commits an atrocity it’s perceived by many to be terrorism, but “when somebody else does it it’s not terrorism.”

He pointed to the recent mass shooting at a mosque in Quebec City, where six people were killed and 19 others injured when a French-Canadian gunman opened fire shortly after the end of evening prayers.

“The people who died there and the people who were there, did they not feel terrorized? Did they not have fear?”

According to the community, Islam is one of the most widely searched topics online.

In light of the recent rise in anti-Islamic rhetoric in Canada and abroad, as well as the recent attack in London, England, Canadian Muslim youth feel the need to bring forward a platform that provides their fellow Canadians an “authentic source” to learn about the faith and break down barriers.

At the end of the day, Manan said the Muslim community wants Canadians to understand “just because we are Muslim does not make us any less Canadian.”

“The true teaching of Islam is … that love of your homeland, whether it be Canada, UK, Belgium, France, America … is part of faith,” he said.

“We, as Muslims living in this country, love this country as much as the next Canadian person. Just because we’re Muslim does not mean that they have to fear us, or the country as a whole is in danger from our actions.

“My own daughters, they go to school here, so if God forbid anything happens, they’re going to be impacted as well. We are investing in the future of this country as a group and as individuals as well.”

Manan said terrorist acts can happen in different religions where “certain individuals want to advance their agenda” and they use religion as a “cover for that.”

“We are trying to get that true message out there, letting people know that we’re fellow Canadians, we’re peaceful people and we’ve been living in this country for a long time.”

The campaign will eventually see more than 100 open houses throughout Canada. The campaign also includes door-to-door canvassing in thousands of neighbourhoods, social-media outreach and special exhibitions in major Canadian cities.

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