In effort to combat misconceptions about Islam, a group of Muslim men hit the streets to spread a message of love and peace in the heart of New York City on New Year’s Eve.
Salaam Bhatti, a 29-year-old estate planning attorney from Queens, NY, spent Thursday afternoon in Manhattan’s Time’s Square passing out pamphlets that convey the truth about Islam, a religion of peace. He told The Huffington Post that he and fellow members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association USA were on a mission to debunk stereotypes and the misunderstanding about Islam vs. Islamic extremism.
Bhatti says that he and his team purposely chose to walk about Time’s Square on one of the busiest days of the year to share the truth about his faith with to a diverse group of people.
“It’s a day where the world converges for one day. So if we can get a few seconds to say we exist and we are here and we are peaceful, then we’ve accomplished something,” said Bhatti, a spokesman for the minority Islamic group Ahmadiyya Muslims.
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To help make themselves visible, he and his team wore T-shirts that said “True Islam” in bold lettering on the front and the word “extremists” crossed out on the back while they passed out flyers that explained “11 clear points that separate true Islam from the extremists.” One thing explained in the pamphlet is that Islam rejects terrorism, but supports women’s equality along with freedom of conscience, religion and speech.
The Muslim men decided to spread the truth about their faith in wake of recent attacks in San Bernardino, California, and in Paris by religious extremists, and the subsequent rise of Islamophobia.
The flyers are also part of a national campaign called “True Islam and the Extremists.”
The Ahmadiyya Muslim community, which has an estimated 20,000 members across the country, plans to take their 11-point anti-extremism campaign on the road.
“We’re hoping to not just share words, but to take action,” said Harris Zafar, a spokesman based in Portland, Oregon.
After the sun went down, Bhatti’s group returned to their mosques for an evening of prayer before midnight. They then came back to Times Square after the ball to help sanitation workers clean up tons of trash in the area.
“It’s our way of giving back, and showing the true good deeds of Islam,” said Bhatti.