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Muslim Students’ Association break down stereotypes with U of O event

 Photo: Rémi Yuan

When news breaks, there is always a less investigated side to the story. One organization at the University of Ottawa is trying to give the neglected side a voice.

Due to recent events, the radicalization of Islam has become of increasing concern for people around the globe. In response to ISIS reaching out to younger generations through YouTube and social media, Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Canada organized a campaign called Stop the CrISIS, meant to educate youth about the teachings of Islam, what it means to be Muslim in today’s world, and how Muslims are portrayed in the media.

“We want to educate the youth about the right use of Islam, the peaceful use,” says Mahmoud Dief, president of the University of Ottawa Muslim Students’ Association (UOMSA).

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Students Association, an international student group, organized the event at the U of O on Nov. 27 as part of a campaign at universities across Canada in an attempt to stop radicalization and extremism.

“We need to have a strong counter-narrative to this ideology before it takes hold,” says Imam Imtiaz Ahmed, community leader of Stop the CrISIS. “We have to be proactive with the youth so they do not fall prey to this ideology.”

The campaign focuses on teaching both Muslims and non-Muslims what is written in the Quran. “The best thing non-Muslims can do is to be non-judgmental and be open to learn about our religion,” Ahmed adds.

Muslim scholars and activists help explain the messages of a peaceful, loving version of Islam to counteract the violent, extreme version of Islam taught by ISIS. They speak of what it means to be a good Muslim, citing characteristics such as kindness, love, and peacefulness, and of charitable efforts made by Muslim students and youth groups in Ottawa.

After the shooting of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo in October, the fear of Islamic extremists hit a lot closer to home for Canadians. That was part of the motivation for starting the campaign, says Ahmed. Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Canada and the UOMSA hope to prevent the increasing association of Islam with extremists and terrorist organizations such as ISIS.

Dief says the most important things he heard during the event is the vital importance of an open-minded education. “We see currently the youths are being misguided by the wrong teachings, not the right ones, and we just want to educate the youth on the right views of Islam.”