Friday, July 21, 2017

Canada: Ahmadi Muslim gathering pushes peaceful ­version of Islam


“If we can show that they have nothing whatsoever to do with Islam, then we hope that their appeal among some of the youth and others will be taken away.”

Photo via Twitter: @prodigy4peace 
Times of Ahmad | News Watch | US Desk
Source/Credit: NOW Toronto
By Steven Zhou | July 19, 2017

“We want to take on the foundation upon which the ideology of ISIS rests,” says Imam Azhar Hanif, National Vice-President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA

Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama‘at (AMJ) Canada, a religious non-profit that represents around 25,000 Ahmadi Muslims across the country, gathered for the opening of their annual conference Friday, July 7 at Mississauga’s International Centre.

The Ahmadi Muslims, a small (some 10 to 20 million adherents worldwide) and often persecuted minority sect within the global Muslim community, have organized the convention, one of the oldest and largest Muslim gatherings in Canada, since 1977. It’s rivaled today only by the annual Reviving the Islamic Spirit (RIS) gathering in Toronto.

But its most recent gathering was only the second time that AMJ Canada decided to convene a short press conference ahead of the actual convention for what AMJ Canada spokesperson Safwan Choudhry described as “hands-on education on Islam.”

Featuring Ahmadi religious scholars and prominent Imams from the Muslim world, the press conference addressed the problem of religious extremism in the Muslim community and the phenomenon of the so-called “Islamic State.”

“We want to take on the foundation upon which the ideology of ISIS rests,” says Imam Azhar Hanif, National Vice-President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA. “If we can show that they have nothing whatsoever to do with Islam, then we hope that their appeal among some of the youth and others will be taken away.”

The Ahmadis have long prioritized the issue of radicalization as something that must be addressed at both the religious and ideological level. This emphasis on maintaining and preserving peace grows out of the overall vision of the founder of the Ahmadi sect, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, an Indian scholar who started the movement in 1889 under the motto “Love for all, hatred for none.”

“We have reached out to all segments of Canadian society to work with us in addressing the issue of violence,” says Lal Khan Malik, AMJ Canada’s National President. “And mostly the response from the rest of the Muslim community has been very positive.”

Such harmonious collaboration between Ahmadis and other Muslims hasn’t always materialized in other countries where the two coexist. Conference organizers acknowledge local nervousness that sectarianism overseas will carry over into Canada and that many Ahmadis still don’t feel embraced by other Muslims.

The feeling of alienation hasn’t always been an impediment for building inter-communal relations in the West. The Ahmadis have forged strong relations with their non-Muslim neighbours in Canada, including the political class. Among their guests at the convention opener was former Stephen Harper director of communications Stephen Lecce, who’s running for the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario in the newly formed King-Vaughan riding.

“The Ahmadis have exemplified the best of what it means to be Canadian,” Lecce says. A ceremony for the raising of the Canadian flag was being held outside as Lecce finished his thoughts. Lecce also sponsored one of the community iftars (breaking of the fast during Ramadan) at the main Ahmadi mosque in Vaughan last month. Michael Palleschi, a Regional Councillor for the City of Brampton, also attended the conference.

Organizers of the convention made a point this year to reach out to non-Ahmadis as guests. The move is part of the AMJ’s effort in Canada to not only improve on its relationship with other Muslims and non-Muslims, but to disseminate a credible and peaceful version of Islam.

“The hospitality and unity that the people here have shown has been really inspiring,” says Eugene Kusi, a non-Ahmadi Muslim student at York University who was invited to the convention by a friend. “Just because we have differing beliefs doesn’t mean we have to resort to conflict.”

news@nowtoronto.com | @nowtoronto




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