Canadian Muslims driving cross-country to combat misconceptions
'Get to know the other side of the picture. Don’t paint us all with the same brush,' they say
It's a mobile mission from coast to coast — an Islamic organization called the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama`at has launched a campaign to combat some of the misconceptions about the religion of Islam.
They're driving across the country with a trailer in tow, ready to answer any questions other Canadians have about Muslims or their religion.
The #MobileMuslims tour started in Newfoundland in July.
In addition to clearing up misconceptions, the tour's aim is to spread "the true, peaceful teachings of Islam" and "celebrate all the freedoms and opportunities we have as Canadian Muslims," according to its website.
Omar Ahmed has been the face of the tour from the beginning. He was initially nervous about the reaction from Canadians, but says the response has been overwhelming.
"People have been very warm and welcoming, very thankful we're coming to their city, coming to talk to us, thanking us for doing this, asking basic questions about Islam," Ahmed said during a tour stop in Edmonton.
"It's been so motivating that people really appreciated that we came to their city with the message, and had conversations."
The existence of extremist groups like ISIS prompted the mission.
"It is unfortunate, it is depressing, it is hurtful that they are doing this," said Ahmed. "You feel somehow responsible to go out and talk about it, because I can't stop the action of what they are doing in another part of the world."
They're using reading materials and simple conversations to explain the true teachings they follow.
"We are normal people, living in the same country that you are, and we enjoy the same liberties and religious freedom that you do," said Ahmed. "And we want you to know more about us. The more you know about us, and the more you meet us, you realize that there is nothing in common between us and that particular group that is hijacking our religion."
They have already visited 26 cities, and Ahmed says they've spoken to hundreds of people.
He hopes allowing people to come to them with questions will combat the hatred spreading around his religion because of extremist groups.
"Why not talk to us? Maybe get to know the other side of the picture. Don't paint us all with the same brush. And people have been very receptive, and I am very thankful for Canada and Canadians for doing that."
The group will move on to Red Deer and Calgary this week, and will finish their journey in Victoria.