EXCLUSIVE – Muslim Canadians turn pro-active to combat religious prejudices

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SHAFAQNA – In the wake of several shocking terrorist attacks carried out by extremists, some Canadian Muslim families are inviting strangers into their homes and mosques with the hopes of educating them about Islam.

The “Meet a Muslim Family” campaign kicked off on Sunday and wraps up on March 14. It connects Canadians with Muslim families, introducing them to their traditions, cultures and values. The goal is to “remove any misconceptions regarding Islam and Muslims,” the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Canada, the group behind the campaign, said in a statement.

“In recent months, there has been several heinous terror attacks carried out in the name of Islam, by violent extremists, both here in Canada and around the world,” the group said. “Through this campaign Canadian Muslims will showcase to their fellow Canadians that a Muslims faith is not in conflict with Canadian values.”

In Canada, there are more than a million Muslims across the country, a 2011 National Household Survey reveals. Some of those identify as belonging to the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, a “fast growing international revival movement within Islam,” according to the sect’s official site. The group “categorically rejects terrorism in any form.”

“Our motto is love for all, hatred for none and … staying loyal to our country,” said Safwan Choudhry, whose family is taking part in the Meet a Muslim campaign. Choudhry, whose family is taking part in the campaign, adds that Muslims also play a role in fighting extremists.

“I personally believe that the solution to eradicate these groups also remains with the Muslim community,” Choudhry told CTV News Channel on Sunday.

“Any terror group, whether in the name of a religion or not, their primary goal is to create fear and create divide. If we stand united, especially here in Canada as per our core values, right there, we stop them in their footsteps.”

So far, Choudhry said the response to the campaign has been “overwhelming.”

He says he’s been contacted by a number of Canadian families, many who live in communities he’s never visited, such as Gander, N.L, and Brandon, Man.

“It’s been really great to get the amazing feedback. There’s been a lot of encouragement from Canadian families for this campaign and we’ve had a lot of Muslims from the Ahmadiyya Muslim community who have opened up their homes.”

Earlier on Sunday, the Choudhrys hosted  neighbour and Vaughan City Councillor Marilyn Iafrate and her daughter on Sunday, cooking them a traditional home cooked meal.

“Being together and sharing common values … this is a moment where we can experience and solidify what we know and the food is awesome,” said Iafrate, who had never met the Choudrys.

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