Muslim group opens up

WHEN Mohammad Hasan moved to Queanbeyan more than 20 years ago, there was just one other Muslim family living in town.

In 2012, there are now more than 100 members in the local branch of the Admadiyya Muslim Association Australia.

This weekend the association's Queanbeyan-Canberra branch will host an Australia Day celebration and welcome all community members to join in. The event will include the children's choir, readings, speeches and a traditional silent prayer.

Mr Hasan said events such as the open day provide non-members an opportunity to learn more about the Muslim faith and break down negative connotations surrounding the religion.

"The idea is to meet people, develop friends and get to know the community and share our beliefs," Mr Hasan said. "There's an idea out there that all Muslims are terrorists, don't integrate into society and don't treat women properly.

"The fear is there ... that Muslims are violent people hitting non-believers but Islam doesn't teach that. The word Islam itself means 'peace', this situation provides us the opportunity to make sure there is no misunderstanding.

"The group's secretary of preaching, Shaheed Sahu Khan, moved to Queanbeyan six years ago and said he has always felt welcomed as a Muslim.

"We're treated the same, I've never had a negative experience, been judged or spoken to rudely in relation to being Muslim," he said. 

"This is a very tolerant society that promotes freedom of speech and democracy."Mr Khan said in their faith, founded by Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad in 1889, there is an emphasis on promoting five principles: peace, loyalty, equality, freedom and respect. 

"There is a prophet that says battles are not won by swords but by the power of pen and speech," Mr Khan said.

Mr Khan uses the example of the outbreak of rioting following the release of an anti-Islamic film last year. Rather than take to the streets, believers were encouraged to write to their local MPs.Another intrinsic part of their faith is to be part of the community.

"We don't do things quietly and just on our own. We want to invite residents on the street, friends and dignitaries to join us in our activities," Mr Hasan said. 

The men said this is the first time they have invited guests to their Australia Day celebration. The group meet one a week to worship at the Griffin Centre but hope in the future to have a central meeting place. 

* The Ahmadiyya Muslim Association's Australia Day celebrations will be held on Saturday, January 26 at the Letchworth Neighbourhood Centre from 10am-12pm.

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