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A message of peace and hope from local Muslim leader


affirmative tone.The security was increased at themosque, since the Quebec attacks, to reassure the Mosque goers. Law enforce- ment have also said they would pay regular visits but urged the Imam to remain careful and mindful of their security. “At a breakfast in Rockland, I offered the mosque to the St-Isidore priest for his service. I told him that he was more than welcome and that it would be an honor to host him for as long as he needed. This is the house of God and all are welcome to worship here.This is amessage of Islam that dates back 1400 years.That message of love is what the Ahmadiyya community stands for” added the imam. Fighting ignorance with education Imtiaz Ahmed proudly explained the vari- ous programs and initiatives his organization is creating and supporting.These initiatives are meant to educate and create bridges with other Canadians of all faiths. One of those programs is called demystifying Islam. “We went to more remote areas where we did open houses in libraries to let people come and ask questions. The library acts as a neutral place where people are more comfortable asking questions. There is a difference between culture and religion and it needs to be known. Genital excision, for example, is a problem in certain areas in Africa; it is not an Islam problem. Stoning has nothing to do with Islam. You cannot find any verse in the Holy Quran about stoning. Some cultures practice this, and yes they might beMuslims, but it is not part of Islam. It is actuallymentioned in the Bible but that doesn’t mean it should be an acceptable punishment for any crime for that matter. Education is the key to understand- ing and understanding is the key to peace and prosperity”. The mosque holds several events; the mosque can be used for special events for the community.They even host a Christmas and Easter market and will host any other com- munity meetings. Their next outreach pro- gram is called Coffee and Islam, a national campaign. “Coffee goes back to theMuslims actually. It was a guy who had goats and that whenever they were eating these plants they were jumping left and right, that’s how cof- fee beans were discovered, way before Tim Hortons,” he said, laughing. He continues: “We are offering Cana- dians to sit with us over a cup of coffee to answer question about Islam. Not to convert anybody but to take out the mystery sur- rounding our very open religion. In Islam, the Holy Quran says that killing one soul is akin to killing all of mankind and that saving one soul is akin to saving all mankind. My community and I firmly believe this to be a cornerstone of Islam,” said Imtiaz Ahmed, in conclusion.

Imtiaz Ahmed is an imamandmissionary at the Cumberland Ahmadiyya Mosque. Ahmadiyya is a Muslim reformist move- ment that started with its founder Mirza GhulamAhmad in 1889, who they believe to be a messiah. The Ahmadiyya mosque is frequented bymembers of the Prescott- Russell Muslim community. In the wake of the terrorist attack in Quebec, Imtiaz Ahmed has amessage of peace and hope for his community and Canadians as a whole. The Ahmadiyya sect of Islam wants to reform the religion with amessage of peace and understanding. They are even trying to rebrand the word Jihad, which in the last couple of decades, had a negative connota- tion. “There is one verse in the Holy Quran that states that Muslims have the right to defend their sect. But we take that verse in a historical context whereMohammed had to take up arms after traveling for 13 years. But today, everybody, at least in Canada, is free to exercise their fate. So the meaning, the violent meaning of Jihad, is not relevant to this day and age. For us Jihad is not about violence but about struggle. The struggle to become a better human being and overcome life’s challenges” explained Mr Ahmed. The Ahmadiyyah sect is profoundly paci- fist and promotes understanding through the educational programs for both the Muslim community and the community as a whole. They see the terrorist attack in Quebec as an act perpetrated by one person that does not

Imtiaz Ahmed, Imam and Missionary at the Cumberland Ahmadiyya Mosque. —photo Maxime Myre

represent a community, race or religion. “You know I do not like to use one brush to paint a whole race or religion. My mes- sage tomy congregation will always be that it was one individual who was radicalized and committed an horrendous act. But he could’ve been black, white or brown, it doesn’t matter. Violence is violence no matter how you look at it. Being a religious leader, if I would use the podium to say ‘look at what the white man did’ I would just create more divisiveness. I think that’s

where we need to be very careful. I salute the Canadians and the people of Quebec for showing somuch support when it could bemuch easier to divide us all.Themessage that they sent out to the world is that we are all on the same page and we stand united to fight terrorism, no matter the ideology behind the act” Threats “We have had in the past, threats made towards our mosque and community. In the span of sixmonths, our mosque was vandal- ized twice. In October 2016, a pumpkin with an axe in it was left on our doorsteps with the words ‘f*** theMuslims’ with swastikas and other hateful messages. Later, three young individuals, that we saw on the cameras, came and vandalized the mosque. But we tell our community not to take the law into their own hands and let the authorities deal with such incidents. “I am a big supporter of freedom of speech. But with words come a certain re- sponsibility. Everyone is free to say whatever he or she wants but there is a difference between voicing an informed opinion and spewing hate. We have zero tolerance for hate speech in our community and here at the mosque. “But on the positive side, for example, the Rockland’s Lions Club sent me an email with amessage of solidarity after the Quebec attacks. The message was that they stand with us. The support and cooperation that we are receiving from the community, the government and law enforcement is heart- warming and overwhelming. We will not let the actions of one man disrupt our mes- sage of peace and our relationship with the Canadian people,” Imtiaz Ahmed said in an

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