Free play at Jubilee spreads Islam’s message of peace and understanding

Canada’s largest association of Muslims and a Calgary Muslim youth group are speaking out against extremism with their performance of Muhammad: The Astonishing Story of the Prophet.

The play — sponsored by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at (AMJ) and their youth association — is part entertainment and part education, teaching Muslims and non-Muslims about the peaceful lessons of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad.

“This is the purpose of having this event, to show that Islam has nothing to do with extremism,” says Mohsin Kamran, president of Calgary’s Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association.

 This is the first time the play will be held in Calgary and comes at a crucial time for our city’s Muslim community.

A few Muslim Calgarians have gained attention in the news for extremist activities — including Damian Clairmont who was reportedly killed while fighting in Syria earlier this year and Salaman Ashrafi, suspected of killing over 30 people in a suicide bombing in Iraq last November.

“Unfortunately these Canadian kids are joining radical groups,” says Kamran. “This is the struggle we have, to present a beautiful picture of Islam, the true picture

Photo by Brandon McNeilUmair Khan, Imam at the Baitunnur Mosque in Calgary, says that the media focuses on the negative acts of a small group of Muslims, which paints a negative picture of Islam.

“If you look at (extremist groups’) flags it’s all based on religion,” says Khan. “It has Allah, then the name of the prophet Muhammad. And one of the reasons we’re doing this event is for the non-Muslim community members and for the Muslim youth to understand that is not the way the prophet Muhammad spread his message.”

Muslims aren’t the only ones worried about the media’s portrayal of Islam. United Church Reverend Tim Nethercott, chaplain to University of Calgary and Mount Royal University students, says associating extremists with Islam is damaging to the reputation of Islamic Canadians.

“This is the purpose of having this event, to show that Islam has nothing to do with extremism.”

— Mohsin Kamran, President of the Ahmadiyya Youth Association

“The Muslim folks here have nothing to do — and their religion and its teachings — have nothing to do with (extremism),” says Nethercott. “There’s this narrative that you get from the media that there is a world-wide struggle between Islam and Judaism or Islam and Christianity and I don’t think that is the case.”

Khan says that community outreach and charity are integral to the Muslim faith. Khan, Kamran and the youth group all take part in public awareness campaigns, writing letters to newspapers, handing out literature in the downtown core and going door-to-door in outlying communities.

Their goal is to let the public know that Islam teaches peace, acceptance and not to fear words like Muhammad, Islam and Jihad.

“Jihad means ‘struggle’ – the internal struggle,” says Khan. “Our Jihad in this era is through the pen. It’s an intellectual Jihad. If people are attacking Islam through the media, then let’s pick up our pens and retaliate with the teachings and knowledge of the Quran.”

The performance will teach Muslims and non-Muslims that Islam has nothing to do with extremism. 

Photo by Brandon McNeilWhile the Ahmadiyya Youth Association is active in the community, Kamran says they shy away from protesting with signs and placards. Kamran says that taking steps to educate and inform, like putting on this play, are the only ways to fight extremists who prey on Muslim youth.

Kamran says he is confident that this performance could have changed the minds of young Calgarians who have joined these extremist groups.

“If a kid like Damian or Ashrafi would have watched a show like this, that would not be the case,” says Kamran. “Today they would be alive.”

Muhammad: The Astonishing Story of the Prophet opens Thursday Oct. 2 at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium and is free to attend. Doors open at 5 p.m., performance at 6 p.m. For more information visit http://www.alislam.org/.

rrumbolt@cjournal.ca

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