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Muslim community dialogue aims to combat stereotypes about Islam

February 15, 2017 11:43 PM

AMSTERDAM --  “The understanding of the Muslim faith is not so good in the eyes of Americans,” said Dr. Hafeez Rehman, President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Albany Chapter.

For more than a month Muslim community leaders have been holding weekly discussions about their faith at Fresh Basil in Amsterdam.

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People of different religions and ethnicities also come.

“I try to tell them that we are actually really peaceful and I tell them like what we do and that we go to the mosque on Sundays and we learned that it's really not as bad as people think,” said Soha Mahmood.

“I do have an understanding that the Bible and the Quran have similar teachings of values that we share and that's how I see Islam,” said Amsterdam resident Maria Roman.

Organizers belong to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, which is one of more than 70 sects of Islam.

Dr. Rehman says they are trying to combat stereotypes about Muslims.

“The faith has been hijacked by the extremists,” Dr. Rehman said. “And we want to take it back. And basically tell that the Islamic faith has nothing to do with terrorism or violence,” he said.

Dr. Rehman said the international organization has held similar campaigns since September 11th.

However, issues including extremism and political tensions inspired the “Coffee, Cake and True Islam discussions.

“After I met a couple of Muslims and a couple of...and you just see that they are normal people,” said Amsterdam resident Zuzana Duffy.

74 of the organization's chapters nationwide are holding similar events.

Noah Ahmad Quick, who was raised as a Catholic and converted to Islam in 2005, is part of a delegation addressing of members of Congress on Capitol Hill Friday, including Rep. Paul Tonko (D-Amsterdam).

“Our goal is to build bridges not to divide people but to bring people together under one comment card,” Quick said. “And that's to serve humanity,” he said.

Kellianne Kennedy of Glens Falls, who is catholic, said the talks have changed her perception of Islam.

“I've only seen the Muslims on TV which are portrayed as terrorists and evil people,” Kennedy said. “Totally a 180. They are the most peaceful calm people,” she said.

The group will launch the discussions in Glens Falls and Albany next week.

They plan to hold the talks at least through the spring. 

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Nia Hamm

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