Touring Muslim youth visit Petrolia, Canada.

Source: The Observer

PETROLIA — A group of young Muslims is out to promote peace, integration and the true nature of their faith.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association of Canada held an open house at the Petrolia Library Saturday to meet with the public and clear up misconceptions about Islam. The group is visiting cities and towns across the country.

The AMYA hopes to spread the message that Islam is a religion of peace — unlike the violent images often portrayed in the media.

“We wanted to make people aware that is not what Islam is about,” said Saadat Ahmed of Toronto.

The AMYA visited about 100 towns last year and is taking open houses to 500 locations across the country in 2012. While large centres like Toronto and Montreal are important, they also want to reach out to smaller communities without large Muslim populations.

It’s about connecting with people who may not have Muslim friends and neighbours.

“Getting to know someone who believes in something is better than hearing something secondhand,” says AMYA Windsor member Kashif Saeed.

The group says the biggest misconception about Islam is that it teaches violence. Women’s rights in Islam have also been criticized, Ahmed says, but Islam gave women the right to vote 1,400 years ago.

Diversions from the peaceful teachings of the Qur’an are cultural and man-made, Ahmed said. Ahmadiyya is a movement of Islam which began in the late 19th century. It encourages “jihad with a pen.”

The AMYA runs blood and food drives, collecting 122,000 pounds of food Canada-wide. They also hold interfaith symposiums where people from all faiths — from Christianity to atheism — are invited to speak on different topics.

“As far as ethical and moral issues, there’s a lot of similarities (between religions),” says Luqman Ejaz.

Much of the inspiration for the open houses came after Florida pastor Terry Jones publicly burned the Qur’an in the spring of 2011. Jones’ actions were internationally publicized and inaccurately portrayed the teachings of the Qur’an, Saeed said.

Saeed hopes the AMYA message will encourage dialogue and understanding among the world’s religions.

“Our main motto is ‘love for all, hatred for none.'”

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