Las Cruces, 7 Rabi’ul Akhir 1437/17 January 2016 (MINA) – A group of local Muslims in the city of Las Cruces in USA are hoping to clear up some common misconceptions about their religion by taking their message to main street.
“I felt like the Islam that people were portraying in various places and media outlets was not the Islam that I ever knew,” said Sureyya Husain, International Islamic News Agency (IINA) quoted by Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA) as reporting.
“And I realized, as I talked to people around me, that other Muslims felt the same way. I thought that we should tell people what our Islam really is. And the more we saw, the less we felt that people knew. It was very disconcerting.”
From her side, Joyce Larsen, who helps lead an outreach group at the Islamic Center of Las Cruces, said another member of the group suggested setting up a booth at the Las Cruces Farmers and Crafts Market.
“She used to run a booth here, and she suggested that we come to the farmers market and sit out here and answer people’s questions,” Larsen said. “So we tried it one time, and it was really successful.”
That was in the summer of 2015, and the group has returned once a month since. “Part of our objective was to combat misconceptions, but another part is to turn the conversation back to what is actually important in Islam,” Larsen said.
“People’s rights are really important in Islam. Let’s start with what Islam is and what it’s really about. It’s about God, and it’s about our purpose here on earth.’”
Husain said that, while the goal of the group was rooted in a more general education, recent events have forced them to stand up and address terrorism.
“Even though the goal of the group was to talk about Islam, at some point we had to stand up and say, ‘No.’ I personally was against having to do that, because I believe very strongly, as a constitutionalist, that I’m an American and nobody has any right to ask me about anything any Muslim does, anywhere in the world,” Husain said.
“As an American I’ve been raised to believe that, and I find it offensive that someone would think that every Muslim has to stand up, and answer for, and defend themselves against a claim of terrorism because somebody goes out and says they’re doing this in the name of Islam.”
Larsen said the booth is a way to educate the public, and to reclaim a conversation driven by headlines and politicians, which poorly represents her religion. Furthermore, she said the rhetoric politician’s use in their stump speeches has a very real impact on Main Street.
The group began the booth with basic flyers explaining the fundamental tenets of Islam, Husain said.
“The second flyer we did was called Who is God, because there were so many people who had no idea who we worship,” Husain said.
Mohammed Dawood, an electrical engineering professor at New Mexico State University, said he was driven to participate in the booth after being asked about Islam by friends and acquaintances.
“When people are educated, then they start to change their outlook toward certain things in light of that education,” Dawood said. “Education is fundamental to understanding anything.”
“The greatest misconception is that Islam is inclined toward terrorism or terrorist activities,” Dawood said. “Nothing could be further from the truth. Islam is far, far from everything that has been blamed on Islam.”
The point of the booth, El Ashmawi said, is not to convert people, but to educate them.
“We want to try to explain who we are to anybody who is interested,” El Ashmawi said. “That’s what Dawah is we explain who we are, what we believe, and let people make their own choices. It’s about people understanding each other.” (T/P006/R03)
Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)