Regina responds to Christchurch: mosque visits, condemning racism, solidarity vigil – Regina Leader-Post

Regina responds to Christchurch: mosque visits, condemning racism, solidarity vigil - Regina Leader-Post
Terrorism has no religion: Mosques across Canada open doors to combat Islamophobia
The Visit a Mosque campaign “gives Canadians an opportunity to meet their Muslim neighbours and friends and learn about the true peaceful teachings of Islam.” 

A Regina mosque is among more than two dozen such centres across the country opening their doors to all Canadians this week in response to the New Zealand terror attack.

The campaign comes after 50 people were shot and killed at two separate mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, during Friday prayer. A 28-year-old from Australia has been charged with murder in connection with the attacks, which also left dozens wounded.

Imam Zeeshan Ahmed said Mahmood Mosque in Regina’s east end is welcoming in anyone with questions about what Muslims believe or simply curious about the religion. This is part of the “Visit a Mosque” campaign launched by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Canada. The Ahmadiyya faith, founded in 1889 in India, is a growing sect in Islam.

"Our message is that we want to educate the public," the imam said. "Through education, I think that is the only way we can get rid of such Islamophobia or such hate that some individuals harbour within themselves."

Ahmed hopes people will take this opportunity to meet members of the local Muslim community and come to a better understanding of Islam.

Imam Zeeshan Ahmed, left, of the Mahmood Mosque, speaks about the upcoming Visit a Mosque in Regina. The campaign is aimed to dispel misconceptions about Muslims and build bridges of understanding. TROY FLEECE / Regina Leader-Post

Now, the general public will have a chance to visit a mosque, meet a Muslim and ask questions which may lingering in the mind. Ahmadiyya mosques will be open throughout the week for the general public to visit.

“We want to educate the public, and through education, I think that is the only way we can get rid of such Islamophobia or such hate that some individuals harbour within themselves.”

In fact, mosques across the nation are opening their doors and inviting the general public to visit a mosque as part of a campaign to clear up misconceptions surrounding Islam and Muslims.

People who visit the mosque will receive a tour of the building and a chance to talk with someone who can answer their questions about Islam.

"Rather, every member of my community especially those who have been affected already by terrorism and have migrated to Canada, their resolve was even stronger," Ahmed said. 

Out of these open discussions, Ahmed hopes to see some of the misconceptions people carry about the religion dispelled.

The imam of the Saskatchewan chapter of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama'at said followers of Islam will not shy away from praying in mosques, even if they may be targets of violence.

“One of the major misconceptions that we have seen or heard is that Islam is a violent religion. Unfortunately that is something that has spread across even social media, but the fact of the matter is that Islam is a peaceful religion. The word Islam itself means peace,” he said.

It's not the first time places of worship have been targets of violence. In the case of Friday's shootings, Ahmed said more worshippers flocked to the mosques.

This push for people to get to know more about Islam comes on the heels of an attack last week in Christchurch, New Zealand. A 28-year-old Australian self-described white nationalist was charged in a rampage that left 50 people dead after shootings at two mosques. Fifty more were injured.

Islam is used as a "pretext" to further nefarious agendas and ideologies which do not belong to Islam, said congregant Habib Rehman.

Police keep watch at a park across the road from a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, on Friday, March 15, 2019. Mark Baker / AP

Dr. Habib Rehman, president of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat, said immediately after the attack that congregation members were trying to stay alert.

"Something that we need to remember is that we cannot put vested security guards outside of every place of worship," Ahmed said.

Despite the ripples of fear, Ahmed said the mosque’s members turned up in numbers as strong as ever the following Friday.

Ahmed said one of the biggest misconceptions is that Islam is a violent religion. It's quite the opposite, he said. 

“People go to these places to find tranquility, find God, find peace,” he said. “When we heard of those attacks of course we were saddened, but that did not stop us from coming to the mosques.”

Rehman said he feels safe at Mahmood Mosque. Ahmed said all places of worship are where people go to feel safe.

The outpouring of support the Mahmood Mosque has seen since the attack is encouraging, said Ahmed, and he hopes even more people will take the time to reach out to the Muslim community and create “bonds of compassion.”

"They need to be taught about the true teachings of Islam. Ignorance breeds violence and terrorism."

A crowd marches while issuing an anti-hatred chant during a Stand Up Against Islamophobia rally held in Victoria Park following and in response to the terror attacks in Christchurch. BRANDON HARDER / Regina Leader-Post

Regina Chamber of Commerce CEO John Hopkins issued a strongly-worded statement on Tuesday condemning a rise in racism — “with some being of the view it may be warranted or even acceptable” — and in praise of diversity.

“Racism has no place in the workplace, in our communities, countries and indeed our homes. It is an archaic way that people and nations used to divide us. The reality is that we are all people regardless of where we come from or what we do. We are all equal in our humanness,” added Hopkins.

On Saturday, around 150 people gathered in Reginas Victoria Park spreading a message of love and peace across religious lines.

In a separate show of support, the Islamic Association of Saskatchewan is also hosting a solidarity vigil to honour the victims of the Christchurch attack on Thursday from 6 to 7 p.m. outside Regina City Hall.

People tear up during a Stand Up Against Islamophobia rally held in Victoria Park following and in response to the terror attacks in Christchurch. BRANDON HARDER / Regina Leader-Post

Muslims across the country are standing up for their faith following the terror attacks in New Zealand.

Multiple mosques, including the Baitul Islam in Maple, are opening their doors with the hopes of dispelling any misconceptions about Muslims and Islam.

Many of our fellow citizens, even in Canada, do not know what Islam is like, what Islam is for, how Islam is a message of peace and love and compassion, explained the president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama`at, Lal Khan Malik.

Messages of condolences have been flowing in since the deadly attack that killed 49 people at two mosques.

Officials believe the reason for hate is ignorance, and the best way to solve that is with education.

Welcome anybody who may have any questions, or who may even have a little apprehension, or fear, or hate, said Asif Khan.

Mosques across Canada will open their doors to anyone wanting to learn more about the Muslim community this weekend.

Lal Khan Malik (centre), National President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama`at Canada, took questions from the media in Maple, Ont. on Tues., March 19, 2019 (CTV News/Krista Sharpe)

Court documents show that the mother of Kaden Young allegedly had drugs and alcohol in her system when her van was swept into the Grand River in February 2018.