Muslims reach out in Maple Ridge

Open house to ‘demystify Islam.’

Next time, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association might try a different approach to connecting with the larger community in Maple Ridge.

Either that or Maple Ridge residents have no questions at all about Islam.

A Saturday open house in the Maple Ridge library, titled the Holy Quran Open House to Demystify Islam, drew no one, said Imam Bilal Khokhar.

Last year, about 10 people showed up at a similar open house.

Most people don’t equate Islam with terrorism, but at some point, people still have misunderstandings, he said.

“People don’t understand Muslims. They don’t understand Islam.

“By holding these events, we give opportunity to people of the town, they can come and ask any question. We’re open to discussion to explain who we are, why do we do what we do. Why are we Muslims.”

The open house was part of a nationwide campaign by Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama`at involving more than 135 open houses and more than 270 visits to towns, “to spread peace, demystify Islam and create religious harmony.”

In any religion, in the past, people used certain texts to justify their own gains, he pointed out.

“It’s a battle, It’s going to take time to get over that.”

The news release announcing the open house denounced the November attack in Paris which killed 130 people.

“Terrorism has never been and never will be, the teachings of Islam,” said the release from the related youth association.

“The actions of ISIS and other terrorist groups, has created myths surround Islam, which in turn has given rise to hate crimes against Muslims all over the world, including Canada. This is due to the lack of understanding of the true and peaceful teachings of Islam.”

The association held an event called Stop the Crisis last year, highlighting the last four letters.

He agreed that the situation for Muslims in Canada differs from France where some of the shooters in the Paris attacks were European born.

Khokhar said Muslim alienation from mainstream culture here is small.

“People have jobs and have no reasons to go and do other things.”

In France, Muslims live in ghettos and don’t have jobs.

“It’s definitely prevalent there.

“And they get sucked into the jihadi ideologies from the Middle East … because they pay them.”

Khokhar, who lives in Delta, is part of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama-at which he says is excluded from mainstream Muslim society and are not allowed to call their places of worship, mosques.

Its main tenet is “Love for all, Hatred for None,” said Khokhar.

When terrorists invoke Islam, “They’re so wrong. They just make it look so bad.”

He agreed, anytime there’s a mass shooting in the U.S., Muslims are hoping their religion isn’t involved.

“The religion of Islam has been hijacked. Ourselves as Muslims are so frustrated by those other Muslims. They’re so wrong, they’re so wrong. They’re using the religion of Islam and they’re just making it so bad.”

He said it’s all about spirituality and the connection with God.

“We have to give back to people.

“It gets so frustrating that this religion we’re trying to represent, they’re ruining the picture for so many people.”

 

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