Community launches True Islam campaign
Members of a small Muslim movement in Bermuda have launched a campaign to raise awareness about the real meaning of Islam after terror attacks around the world.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim community says the aim of its True Islam campaign is to clarify misconceptions about the religion and emphasise that it is vehemently opposed to violence.
Spokeswoman Shabnam Jheengoor told The Royal Gazette: “We want to give a true perspective of what Islam is really about. Islam is a peaceful faith. People know that but with these things happening around the world, it tends to make people nervous and there are a lot of misunderstandings and we need to clear up those misunderstandings.”
She said in the wake of the March 22 Westminster attack in London and other “gruesome and cruel” killings around the world, including in the Middle East and certain African countries, it was the responsibility of Muslims to speak out against violence.
Perpetrators were often reported to have carried out terrorism in the name of Islam, she said, but in doing so they were essentially “hijacking and defaming” a peaceful religion.
“Islam is an inherently peaceful faith promoting compassion and justice,” said Mrs Jheengoor.
“One cannot emphasise the following point enough: Islam strongly condemns such cruelty against innocents and promotes freedom of religion.
“Our sincere thoughts and prayers are with the victims of these horrific acts.”
The Ahmadiyya community in countries including the United Kingdom and the United States have launched the True Islam campaign in response to terror attacks and Mrs Jheengoor said its members in Bermuda were now following suit.
“We may be isolated [in Bermuda] but whatever is happening in the rest of the world, it is in some way going to affect us here,” she said, noting that Bermudians were directly impacted by 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombing. “Here, people are very aware of what’s going on in the world.”
The last government census pegged the number of Muslims on the island at 616 but Mrs Jheengoor estimated that number had probably risen to about 1,000, with the majority of them Bermudian. There are three mosques here, though the tiny Ahmadiyya community has no place of worship and no local imam. Members gather in one another’s homes to pray.
Mrs Jheengoor said Bermuda’s citizens were mostly well-informed about Islam and it was rare to encounter Islamophobia.
“Sometimes we do encounter negative comments but these are rare and few,” she said. “The present campaign and our past initiatives for the most part have been well received and many people have encouraged us to keep up the good work.”
The True Islam campaign will be conducted mainly through social media and the distribution of flyers.
Mrs Jheengoor said: “In the past, we have done exhibitions and interfaith seminars with the local churches and other faith communities, such as the Jewish community. We have also worked with local organisations such as Amnesty International Bermuda to shed light on the persecution of religious minorities in sadly too many countries.
“We regularly put up mini-exhibits about Islam in the kiosks in Washington Mall. Our future plans include the ‘Coffee, cake and Islam’ initiative, where we will be available in public spots where people can approach us with any of their questions and enjoy free cakes and hot drinks along with respectful dialogue.
“We just intend to be open and accessible to people, so whatever questions or concerns people might have, we are here to answer them in person.”
For more information on the Ahmadiyya community, visit its Facebook page AMC.Bermuda or Twitter profile @AMC_Bermuda.
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