Muslim community invites teachers into mosque, asking for ‘peace through understanding’

The goal was to break misconceptions of Islam

Aleem Khan participated in a door-to-door campaign in 2013, informing people that terrorism and violence have no place in Islam. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

It’s a sight you don’t see everyday — public school teachers walking through a mosque.

The goal was to break misconceptions of Islam by making the Muslim community available for face-to-face interactions.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Centre hosted a first-of-its-kind open house Thursday for teachers and staff from the Greater Essex County District School Board.

Teachers were invited by Windsor’s Muslim community to ask specific questions about the Qur’an and the religion as a whole. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

Teaching the teachers

Aleem Khan, president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Windsor chapter, said teachers need to know the ‘true nature’ of Islam.

“Teachers are the future-builders… and this is a way for them to learn about Islam first-hand from the source.”

He said Muslims around the world have a responsibility to spread the ‘true message’ of Islam.

“I believe that when people know about others, they feel more comfortable and they feel more closer to each other, … knowing that we are not different. We share all these common values, just in different ways,” he said.

Rachel Olivero has served on the Minister of Education’s Equity Roundtable. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

Bringing the community together

The board sees this event as a way of connecting with the increasingly-diverse population of students.

“When you look at the demographics of our classrooms, we have so many Muslim students. And sometimes, the messages from the media are very negative about Muslims. So I think it’s important for our teachers to actually meet real Muslims that live in Windsor.” she said.

For many teachers, this is the first time they have ever stepped into a mosque.

“One of the teachers — when she first saw the invitation [to this event], — she felt intimidated to come … But once she got here, the people were so welcoming and so friendly, she invited them to come back to her school.”

Muzzamil Jalaal is a student of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Centre, training to become an imam. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

An inside perspective

​Members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Windsor chapter are welcoming the opportunity to speak directly with the community.

Muzzamil Jalaal found it is important to educate teachers about the clear divide between culture and religion.

“I spent the most time speaking with an English teacher. She had a lot of interest in what Islam had to say about women’s rights,” he remembered. “Islam, around 1400 or 1500 years ago, gave women the rights to their own body for divorce, to inheritance, to property. She found this extremely important.”

He said these are God-given rights to women. But he also expressed Islam’s acceptance of non-religious people too.

“If you don’t believe in God, these are still human, unalienable rights that can not be infringed upon. It’s about empowering not only women or only men. It’s about humans and students altogether,” said Jalaal.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Windsor chapter hopes to continue these discussions outside of the mosque’s walls. Members say they will be accepting invitations from teachers to speak to students about the basic facets of Islam in classrooms.

with files from the CBC’s Meg Roberts


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