A cross-Canada campaign led by Muslim youth to stamp out Islamaphobia made a stop in Barrie on the weekend.
Members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association, including many from the Barrie chapter, were on hand Sunday afternoon at Centennial Park as part of “Islam in Motion: I Am a Muslim, Ask Me Anything." It's a mobile exhibition that’s made stops in cities across the country to have open-minded discussions with residents in an effort to remove misconceptions about Islam.
“We came up with this idea in order to engage our youth to bring them out on the street to tell Canadians (about) the true teachings of Islam,” Naveed Ul Islam told BarrieToday.
Islamophobia has been on the rise, he said, pointing to the June 6 attack in London, Ont., where the driver of a pick-up truck drove into a Muslim family, killing four and injuring another. That same month, there was vandalism at an Edmonton mosque.
“We felt the need that we should be out and teaching people what the real teachings of Islam is," he added.
The response in Barrie was good, Ul Islam said, with several people stopping by to ask questions or simply to express their gratitude for what the group was doing.
During their travels, Ul Islam said he and his fellow volunteers have received many questions about the rights of First Nations individuals, as well as the religion's views on racism.
“The big question has been what is Islam teaching about different races or racial superiority,’ he said, adding Islam considers every man and woman equal, no matter their ethnicity. “We are all one family and are all children of Adam and Eve. There is no superiority of any race, so if any one does anything bad, our (belief) is that it is the individual who should be held accountable.”
Volunteers have also received numerous questions regarding Islam’s stance on animal rights and women’s rights.
When asked what question he would like to be asked, Ul Islam said he wishes more people would inquire about the difference between the true teachings of Islam and extremism.
“That is the question (people) should be asking. Our response would definitely be that (extremism) has nothing to do with Islam," he said. "The teachings of Islam cannot be more peaceful. If you read the Qur'an, if you read the teaching of Muhammad it has been to bring peace in the world.
“Unfortunately, our image of Islam has been hijacked by a few groups of extremists, so people have been relating the atrocities that are being committed in different parts of the world to Islam. … However, it has nothing to do with that.”
Ul Islam urges his fellow Canadians not to look at Muslims to learn about Islam, but rather look at the actual teachings and learn for themselves what it truly stands for, or even to visit Maryam Mosque in Oro-Medonte Township, which he noted is open to anyone who wants to attend.