'Muhammad' seminar debunks stereotypes

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Imam Noman Rana of Zion speaks at the Muhammad Messenger of Peace Symposium in the League Ballroom on Thursday. Buy this photo

By Brandon Summers-Miller, Daily Staff Reporter
Published April 15, 2015

During the third annual “Muhammad: The Messenger of Peace” seminar Wednesday evening, Detroit’s Ahmadiyya Muslim Community chapter joined the Ahmadiyya Muslim Student Association to discuss Islam and to portray a more accurate, historical-based image of the Prophet Muhammad.

The seminar, which attracted about 200 people, was held in the Michigan League Ballroom. At the event, members of the Muslim community tried to debunk stereotypes associated with Muslims in the media by further exploring the history of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad.

AMC is a Muslim community group with chapters around the nation, and the AMSA is a Muslim student organization on campus.

Mansoor Qureshi, Metro Detroit chapter president of AMC, began the event by reading from the Quran. Afterward, Mahir Osman, AMC’s public affairs secretary, presented historical background information of 6th-century Arabia. He said the time shortly before Prophet Muhammad’s era was a period marked by violence and injustice.

“Our objective is to show people what, in fact, the true message of Islam really is, what the true message of Prophet Muhammad was,” Osman said. “We, as Americans, are loyal to our country, we are loyal to our fellow citizens. We have that love and that peaceful expectation within ourselves that the prophet actually expected of us.”

Qureshi then detailed the life of Prophet Muhammad, noting how he came to be seen as a public messenger of hope and peace.

AMC member Imam Azam Akram then discussed how Islam is currently portrayed in the United States and abroad, citing lack of understanding and ignorance as primary causes for the religion’s negative stigma.

Akram explained the historical aspects of ignorance toward Islam. He said these date back to medieval Europe, where parents would frighten their children by telling stories about how Muhammad-like figures would to snatch them away in the night.

Akram said people should engage in active education to halt the persecution of Muslims across the nation and globe.

LSA freshman Ibrahim Ijaz, co-president of AMSA, said the organization has condemned the actions of ISIS and instead intends to promote religious tolerance all over the world.

“The main thing that we hope people take away from this event is the character of the Prophet Muhammad,” Ijaz said. “There’s so much slandering and allegations and misrepresentation of Prophet Muhammad in the media and in common knowledge today that it really gets lost when you’re trying to be the one moderate voice speaking up in a crowd of extremists.”

In addition to students and community members, members of Ann Arbor’s City Council and the Ann Arbor Police Department attended the event, including Councilmember Sabra Briere (D–Ward 1) and Ann Arbor Police Chief John Seto. Seto and Briere were applauded for their efforts to make Ann Arbor a better place to live by promoting religious tolerance and educational discussions throughout the community.

“It’s important to continue this dialogue and it’s important to keep learning, especially in the manner which you have,” Seto said.