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Muslim Women Fight Xenophobia with Outreach

EDMONTON – A leading Canadian Muslim women group has put up a new billboard to encourage Edmontonians to meet their Muslim neighbors, an effort that follows a wave of hateful anti-Muslim posters in the city.

“We have been trying to combat misconceptions about Islam. Lots of people are misinformed, and there are some negative stereotypes about Islam which we, as practicing Muslims, don’t see,” Afshan Fatima, with the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) Sisters Edmonton, told Edmonton Journal.

“For us, it is all about serving God through serving humanity.”

The billboard reads, “Muslims condemn all violence,” and has a phone number for Edmonton residents to call to learn more about Islam.

It also has a quote from the Qur’an: “To save a life is to save all humanity,” encouraging those who see it to contact the ICNA for more information.

“If you have any questions, ask us rather than asking others,” said Fatima.

“When you go to people who practice the faith, you get the correct answers, you get the correct message and it really goes a long way to dispel misconceptions.”

According to Fatima, the billboard is part of a larger attempt to dispel misconceptions about what the religion is.

Earlier efforts included providing relief help after the Fort Mac fire, reaching out to other faith groups. The group is planning outreach events at local mosques as well.

“We’re neighbors, our kids go to the same schools,” Fatima said.

“It’s natural to have concerns, we’d like people to reach out to us, to build bridges, to ask questions.”

Fatima added that their work became even more important after anti-Muslim flyers started appearing in mailboxes in Edmonton.

“Ignorance breeds hatred, so we are trying to inform people so there is more communication between us and more harmony between peoples,” said Fatima, adding that Islam is, above all, a religion of peace.

“To the individual people, there is nothing in Islam that says you have to kill innocent people or that it is good to kill innocent people. In the contrary, it protects general humanity, it protects people, and it says it is better to save lives than to take lives,” Fatima said.

Sajida Asghar, another member of the group, agrees.

“We are living together and we need to know each other, if you don’t know us, how can we live peacefully?”