Sunday, February 26, 2017

USA: Ahmadiyya Mosque's interfaith gathering stresses love, acceptance


The underlying theme of unity and peace was evident on the cover of the program. Under a heading of “True Islam” was written, “Extremists are trying to divide us let’s unite instead.”

Photo: Scott Anderson / Burlington County Times
Times of Ahmad | News Watch | UK desk
Source/Credit: Burlington County Times
By Dubravka Kolumbic | February 25, 2017

WILLINGBORO — Love of one’s nation and love of one’s neighbor was the theme of the Interfaith Workshop at Al-Nasr Mosque in Willingboro on Saturday afternoon.

For more than 20 years, women of various faiths have gathered there to examine issues relevant to women regardless of religious affiliation. About 50 women attended Saturday’s workshop, which was hosted by Lajna Immaillah Women’s Auxiliary, to discuss this year’s topic, Loyalty to One’s Nation.

Auxiliary chapter president Amtul Wadood Chaudhry told those in attendance the gathering was a blessing for people of faith as well as those of no faith.

“We gather to show love to one another, to build bridges, to find commonalities and to appreciate our differences,” Chaudhry said. “Loyalty to one’s nation is actually the basic core value of all of our religious teachings. Each and everyone one of us have been taught this … to be a good citizen.”

Members of Al-Nasr Mosque belong to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.

The underlying theme of unity and peace was evident on the cover of the program. Under a heading of “True Islam” was written, “Extremists are trying to divide us let’s unite instead.”

Diane McKeen, president of Sisterhood of Adath Emanu-El in Mount Laurel, was one of the keynote speakers. McKeen said she believed the current U.S. government did not appear to be supporting the concept of justice for all.

“We must strive to make sure that this nation moves forward and does not revert to those darkened times,” McKeen said, referring to incidents of bias and prejudice in U.S. history.

“Even if we worship a different God, we are still one nation,” she said.

Sandy Fleming, of Refuge Evangelical Baptist Church in Philadelphia, said loving one’s neighbors and teaching children to do the same is more important than ever today because of a seemingly divisive climate in the U.S.

“If we behave as each other’s neighbors, the fears can be dispelled,” Fleming said.

The Rev. Hilda Covington, founder of Wayside Community Church in Burlington, referred to herself as a product of the Civil Rights Movement. She stated that only in America could people have such differing beliefs and still love each other.

“This is our country,” Covington said. “Loyalty is a belief in the unbelievable sometimes, but you still hold fast. Love for nation and one another must prevail.” She added that people can disappoint, but the principles that America was founded on must still stand.

Maureen Scalia, a member of Mt. Holly Friends Meeting, told the audience to celebrate differences and similarities.

“Part of being loyal is to protest when things are not just,” Scalia said.

Auxiliary general secretary Labeeqa Mir stressed that the Islamic faith teaches its followers to follow government rules and laws.

“This idea has surfaced that Muslims are only loyal to their faith, not their country, as if the two can be mutually exclusive,” Mir said. “I can be a loyal Muslim and a loyal citizen. These two ideas are not mutually exclusive.” In fact, Mir explained, disobeying authority is the same as disobeying Allah.

“God is instructing Muslims to obey all those in authority,” Mir continued. “Our religion teaches us to stay loyal to our nation and away from any rebellion.” She added that Muslims living in oppressed conditions are taught to relocate to a land where they will have religious freedom, rather than rise up in violence against their oppressors. In addition, Muslims are taught to vote with the country’s priorities in mind, not individual preferences.

“Loyalty to one’s nation is an important teaching of Islam,” Mir said.

Miriam Glogower, of Hainesport, said workshops like this should be more commonplace.

“I’ve very interested in getting to know other people in our community,” she said. “I’m intrigued with the idea of getting to understand the Muslim community better as human beings.”

Glogower said she first learned of the workshop when members of Lajna Immaillah Women’s Auxiliary visited her temple, Adath Emanu-El in Mount Laurel.

“You see the similarities,” Glogower said. “They are women like us.”

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