News about Muslims in the British press is never rare, but rarely ever positive. An article by the press gazette written in 2017 revealed that the national media has corrected at least 20 significant inaccuracies about Muslims in news stories over the last year.
As rampant Islamophobia and xenophobia continues to rise, Sabah Ahmedi a 25-year-old Imam from Essex, who hails from the Ahmadiyya community is on a mission to address the negative perceptions society has about Islam.
He told Asian Voice, “Islam means peace. Islam does not teach violence or hatred. And the Islam you see on the media is not Islam at all. For me my religion is a way of life and I can mould my life around my religion. If it wasn’t something people could mould there life around, it wouldn’t be the fastest growing religion in the world.”
In Britain, one of the biggest issues around today's Muslim youth is ensuring they are kept away from radicalisation. With Shamima Begum's pleadings to return to the UK, many concerns have been raised. “It should be clear that the ideology of Daesh and similar groups are completely hateful, evil and abhorrent,” said Sabah. “Such groups and ideologies have nothing to do with Islam, if Shamima Begum returns she should be fully investigated by the authorities. If she has committed any crimes she should be charged according to the laws and sentenced accordingly.”
However speaking about the community's infrastructure for the youth, he added, “On a weekly basis we have meetings all across the country for the youth, and in these meetings the youth recite a pledge.”
Part of the pledge involves sacrificing their lives, time and wealth for the sake of their faith, country and nation, in addition to this the youngsters partake in feeding the homeless across the country, visit care homes, litter picking and distributing chocolates to the elderly.
“By them engaging in society it gives them a sense of responsibility and doesn’t allow them to take part in radicalisation or anything which affects society at large. That’s why you’ll never see a single person from our community radicalised.
“Regardless of one’s faith and background, the Ahmadi community encourages and welcomes all, you can’t reform a nation, without reforming its youth first and that is integral in society.”
What you see in the media is not Islam
A report by ‘hope not hate’, the anti-fascist group, revealed that more than a third of people in the UK believe Islam is a threat to the British way of life. The report argues that anti-Muslim prejudice has replaced immigration as the key driver of the growth of the far right.
“I think there is a misunderstanding of what Islam is. What they see in the media is not Islam. And if someone commits an act of violence in the name of Islam, that is not correct – it is not what Islam teaches at all”, says Sabah.
In Islam, Zakat is the third pillar of Islam, it is the required giving of a set proportion of one’s wealth to charity. It has been estimated by the Muslim Charities forum, that during Ramadan in Britain each year, Muslims give an estimated £100bn to charities. Furthermore, since the formation of the Islamic relief, the charity itself has transformed and saved the lives of more than 175 million people. Yet these stories are rarely if ever reported by the mainstream media.
“People have a fear of Islam, because of what they see in this day and age. And unless the give a platform to us, that fear is going to stay,” he told the Asian Voice.
Sabah says as one of the youngest Imams, he wants to show people that he is no different than any other citizen. “Just because I have a beard, and a different colour skin doesn’t make me any less immoral or more moral than those who don’t have a beard or brown skin.”
LGBTQ+ and Islam
When asked about LGBT identification and being Muslim, Sabahsaidthat Islam does not promote homosexuality, but that doesn’t mean we discriminate homosexuals. “Someone who identifies as a homosexual can come to the mosque and are free to worship.”
But if someone from the Muslim communtiy who identifies themselves to be part of the LGBT community approaches him, how does he address this as an Imam?
“I think it’s a very sensitive matter, if someone came up to me and I knew he is homosexual and wanted to live that life then it is up to him or her at the end of the day,” said Sabah. “I am no one to judge and everyone is accountable for their actions. If someone wants to be homosexual that’s up to them, it is their choice.”
National peace symposium
This year, the Ahmadiyya community will be hosting their ‘National peace symposium’ event, where the focus will be on countering negative perceptions of Islam and Islamic perspectives of many global affairs. To attend the event RSVP at:https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/national-peace-symposium-2019-tickets-57199390918
“Just because I have a beard, and a different colour skin doesn’t make me any less immoral or more moral than those who don’t have a beard or brown skin.”
“People have a fear of Islam, because of what they see in this day and age. And unless the give a platform to us, that fear is going to stay.”