‘There’s so much more that connects us than what divides us’ – Dispelling Muslim myths at the heart of Wellington initiatives
Mustenser Ahmad Qamar and Mohamed Anas Raheem are behind an upcoming Quran exhibition in Wellington as well as a newly established ‘Coffee, Cake & Islam’ meet-up initiative.
Countering negative perceptions of Muslims and the religion of Islam is at the heart of a newly established campaign in Wellington.
For the past few weeks, Karori resident and Muslim Mohamed Anas Raheem has been gathering those in his community to hear firsthand what Islam’s true teachings are over a fresh brew and a slice of cake.
The Coffee, Cake and True Islam initiative is about getting people to ask questions about Muslims and Islam to those in the community who know it best and can dispel the many myths that exist.
“While New Zealanders, for the most part, are able to divorce the actions of a few barbaric individuals with the religion of Islam, there are still a large number of Kiwis who have never met a Muslim.”
“We’re not trying to convert anyone. It’s about saying ‘hey we’re just like you, come and grab a cup of coffee with us and have a chat about what Islam is.”
So far, two sessions had been held in Wellington with about half a dozen people in attendance each time.
“It’s not about the numbers, it’s about people hearing the message and passing it on,” Raheem said.
He said the sessions were about promoting “peace, tolerance and understanding” rather than focusing on those who used their religion to justify their criminality.
“Those sorts of actions have nothing to do with faith, whether it’s Islam or Christianity, it’s to do with the individuals and the way of life they subscribe to.”
Raheem believed that Kiwis were, for the most part, open-minded in terms of letting others practice their own faith but there was an underbelly as well.
“There is still some negative sentiment around that I think people keep hidden because it’s easier to express it behind a computer when you can’t put a face to the individuals.
“But there’s so much more that connects us than what divides us and that’s what this is all about,” he said.
However, according to a recent study conducted in New Zealand, more avid news consumers are more likely to be Islamophobic – a statistic Meet a Muslim organiser Mustenser Ahmad Qamar hoped to help change.
“We are driving a counter-narrative and tackling the tough questions head on during our Quran Exhibition as well as through education from the original source itself.
“Our community has translated the Holy Quran into 75 languages and one of them is Te Reo Maori which took one member 20 years to complete,” he said.
Alongside the Quran texts will be several banners explaining aspects of Islam including women’s rights, the concept of jihad and terrorism. Men and women from the local Muslim community will also be on hand to answer any questions.
“Our purpose with driving such initiatives is to prove the Quran is not a violent text. Some people like to misinterpret it but it’s a peaceful text that champions peace,” Qamar said.
“We want people to judge us for who we are rather than the actions of extremists.”