Local Muslims Fight Stereotypes

By Matthew Petrillo
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 2 | Posted Aug. 24, 2010

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Khalil Malik says Muslims should not be associated with terrorism.

Photo by Matt Petrillo

Ahmadiyya Muslims in Philadelphia are speaking out with the hopes of reversing some of the negative feelings associated with Islam and terrorism.

Last week, a Philadelphia man was gunned down in Pakistan, and Ahmadiyya Muslims are calling his death a state-sanctioned persecution. They allege that Pir Habib-ur Rehman is the first American Ahmadiyya killed for his faith in almost two years.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim community says it does not align itself with the war-entangled Sunni or Shia Muslims. But Ahmadiyya Muslims say they are treated like extremists, claiming they were denied aid and relief for Pakistan’s recent floods.

For dozens of years, many Ahmadiyya Muslims have been flocking to America, which they boast as an “almost ideal” host for the Muslim lifestyle. They say they are grateful for the United States’ religious tolerance.

“We try to work for the unity of this country,” says Khalil Malik, a leader in the Ahmadiyya community. Although he says some people assume that all Muslims are terrorists due to “those extremists [who] have hijacked the name of Islam,” he says that most Muslim sects have a long history of nonviolence.

But even without inciting violence, Muslims are again the center of a controversial debate after plans to build a mosque two blocks away from the World Trade Center came to light.

While visiting Philadelphia last week to endorse Joe Sestak for the U.S. Senate, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said: “Another mosque in NYC would add to its diversity and be good for the city. But if you want the terrorists to win without firing a shot, then you take away the very freedoms that our young men and women around the world are fighting for.”

But many Muslims say that associating their faith with terrorism only perpetuates an already strong anti-American bias against the religion.

“We cannot allow these emotions to be manipulated to equate the entire Muslim community with terrorists. That would be a great shame and a great injustice,” says Malik, adding that people are usually afraid of ideas they are unfamiliar with.

For the past 120 years, Malik says, his community has no record of any violence. He adds that Americans who are born in this country are often ignorant of all the freedoms they are afforded.

Malik suggests that the Sufi Muslims in New York, the ones who are behind the WTC mosque, should be afforded the opportunity to build it, but speculates that moving it further away from the World Trade Center memorial site might make it less controversial. He also suggests they make it “an international house where any kind of person can come and worship that would make it a symbol of tolerance and respect.”

And that’s exactly what Ahmadiyya Muslims plan on doing here in Philadelphia. Early next year, they are erecting the city’s first Ahmadiyya Muslim-built mosque, which will include a large prayer area that can hold up to 1,000 people, a college-sized gym that will be used as a multipurpose facility, and many other features for all of the community to enjoy, no matter if one identifies as Muslim or Jewish or Christian.

“The principle that all people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are. The writ of our Founders must endure,” President Obama said last week in response to the mosque controversy.

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1. BornInUSA said... on Sep 21, 2010 at 03:31AM

“"Khalil Malik says Muslims should not be associated with terrorism." Ok, then how about not committing terrorist acts in the first place? Not all muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are muslim. I'm sure the anti-muslim bias wouldn't exist if not for all the murders committed in the name of Muhammad.

Let's not forget that while you are building your so-called muti-purpose mosques (will women be able to worship along-side men?), that Christians, Jews, and others cannot build their places of worship in muslim-dominated countries. In many cases non-muslims are being murdered in their homes and churches as well.

I wonder how tolerant you'll be once the muslim population grows and you have more clout through numbers? Wild guess here, but I bet you and your kind will trample on non-muslim and woman's rights just as always.

Do us all a favor and go find a Muslim country and leave us alone. Muslim values are not compatible with the way of life in the United States....yes, I'm no”

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2. ILA said... on Nov 6, 2010 at 02:51PM

“@ BornInUSA:

all terrorists are not Muslim. While it is undeniable that there has been a growth of fundamental Islam in the past, there are terrorist groups everywhere in the world, like in the DR Congo, Sri Lanka, Nepal, who tend to identify with other religions.

And, what really is the way of life in the United States? The US has built itself on the standards of a 'melting pot' with no distinct culture. Or perhaps you mean the Native American way of life which has been destroyed and trampled upon by colonial invaders?

There are predominantly Muslim countries around the world where non-Muslims have been able to reap many benefits. How many Americans have made fortunes off the oil industry in Dubai? How many Christians live and co-exist peacefully with those in Lebanon, Egypt and other countries? While it is undeniable that there are many horrendous crimes being committed in the name of Islam, it doesn't do any good to espouse xenophobic ideas the way you do.”

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