Saturday, June 25, 2016

USA: Fitchburg Muslim community opens doors with message of peace


Ramadan is one of the most important holidays in the Muslim religion, and centers around fasting every day for a month between sunrise and sunset.

Times of Ahmad | News Watch | US Desk
Source/Credit: Ssentinel & Enterprise
By Anna Burgess | June 24, 2016

FITCHBURG -- "Love for all, hatred for none," is the core message of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.

In the face of alleged prejudice toward their religion by presidential candidate Donald Trump, and terrorism practiced by those who claim to be Muslim, like the Orlando nightclub shooter, these words are more important than ever.

This is why the local Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is inviting all community members, whether Muslim, Christian, atheist or anything else, to join them for a traditional Ramadan dinner on Friday night.

Furqan Mehmud, whose father is the president of the local branch of the community, said they want to change the negative perceptions of Muslims held by those "ignorant" of the religion.

"People (like the Orlando shooter) distort stuff," Mehmud said. "People ignorantly think, 'Oh, the shooter was Muslim,' but he was drunk, he beat his wife, none of those are our core values. Our hearts go out to the Orlando shooting victims, and we sympathize with their families. We're against any kind of killing."

Mehmud explained that their organization wants to show how welcoming and peaceful most Muslims, especially Ahmadiyya Muslims, are. Part of this is simply educating their neighbors about Islam, which is why they're inviting the public to Friday's dinner.

"We want to tell everybody about Islam," Mehmud said, "and this is the perfect month for us, because it's our holiest month."

Ramadan is one of the most important holidays in the Muslim religion, and centers around fasting every day for a month between sunrise and sunset.

It is a similar concept to Lent, in the Christian faith, or Passover and Yom Kippur, in the Jewish faith.

"It's a whole body fast," Mehmud said. "You're trying not to hear, see, touch bad things. It's a holiday where you try to perfect yourself."

During Ramadan, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community typically prays and breaks their fast together two or three times a week. This year, they decided to open the fast-breaking dinner to the Fitchburg community as a whole.

Mayor Stephen DiNatale, who said he's a regular at Ahmadiyya holiday events, will attend the fast-breaking dinner. Police Chief Ernest Martineau plans to attend as well.

The dinner will take place at the Finnish Center at Saima Park on Friday from 8 to 10 p.m. The Muslim organization will welcome attendees with a prayer and a discussion of their sect's 11 points of peace before breaking their fast with dates, a Ramadan tradition.

The meal itself will include traditional Islamic holiday foods, like kabobs, chicken curry, peas and rice, and traditional sweets.

Mehmud said most people he has encountered in his own community "have common sense" and don't jump to bigoted conclusions, but seeing some of the nationwide backlash against Muslims is hard at times.

"It does get frustrating a little," he said, "when you hear people say things ignorantly that don't even make sense."

Mehmud added that "Christianity has their own form of terrorism, with the Ku Klux Klan, who say they love Jesus."

He and DiNatale agreed that any religion can have extremists who distort spiritual teachings.

"The Ahmadiyya community speaks out against this kind of extremism," DiNatale said. "Muslims that are true believers, none of this is condoned."



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Follow Anna Burgess on Twitter and Tout @AnnaBurgess18. aburgess@sentinelandenterprise.com



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