Ryerson Ahmadiyya Muslim Students Association students tackle Islamophobia

ISIS perverts the true meaning of Islam, said Imam Yousuf Khan at a panel discussion last week.

Imam Yusuf Khan (Khadija Khan / Ryersonian Staff)

Imam Yousuf Khan (Khadija Khan / Ryersonian Staff)

Khan was the keynote speaker at “Murder in the Name of Islam,” a panel discussion held at Ryerson on March 23. The event, organized by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Students’ Association (AMSA), was intended to battle public misconceptions about Islam.

The discussion identified the media’s extensive coverage of ISIS as a reason for these misconceptions.

“Not a day goes by without the mention of ISIS on a news channel,” Khan said. “The media validates ISIS by referring to them as an Islamic State. As a Muslim, I don’t recognize them.”

Blawal Aleem, president of AMSA Ryerson, said the discussion aimed to provide answers from an Islamic point of view and explain the “sensationalized reporting on ISIS by the media.”

“We want the media and the general public to stop associating Islam with ISIS and to stop referring to them as an Islamic radical group,” said Aleem.

The second keynote speaker, Imam Umar Akbar, said the panel’s name is significant.

“We chose this name because we wanted to make sure the media would attend,” said Akbar. “This is all we hear in the media when it comes to explaining the violence.”

Khan and Akbar said that through initiatives like the panel, they hope to teach people what the religion of Islam is about and actually says.

Ryerson politics associate professor Sedef Arat-Koç says the media should educate themselves better on these issues.

“They should be careful to not reduce these very political issues into religion,” she said.

“The media does not make negative generalizations about Christianity when extremist Christian fundamentalist individuals or groups engage in acts of terrorism,” said Arat-Koç.

“When ISIS speaks on Islam, they misrepresent and distort how the majority of Muslims interpret Islam.

“One of the problems with the media tying ISIS directly to Islam is that they do so at the expense of the actual analysis of the political and historical factors that have led to the emergence of groups such as ISIS. Arat-Koç adds that the 2003 invasion of Iraq played a part in the prevalence of groups like ISIS.

The panel’s introduction described the accomplishments of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at of Canada, such as building more mosques in areas outside of the GTA and organizing various events throughout the year to engage the youth in their community.

In response, a student attending the panel said, “your panel was no different than ISIS’ message. Your panel was trying to promote the significance of the Ahmadiyya community.”

Shortly after ISIS started making headlines last summer, Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association (AMYA) launched the Stop the CrISIS campaign, to fight both Islamophobia and the extremist influence ISIS can have on Canadian youth.

“We just wanted to clarify that comparing Islam to those that condone violence is wrong,” said Aleem.

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