By the Grace of God, we enjoyed a pleasurable evening with our guests at Masjid Bait us Samad. Around 100 guests listened to speakers of different faiths and backgrounds. At the end guests asked questions and enjoyed informal discussion over a light dinner.
The program started with recitation and translation of verses from Holy Quran by Hafiz Abdul Qudoos Kukoyi. Followed by a presentation about “True Islam vs Extremism” campaign of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA by Abdul Latif Bennett.
The first guest speaker was representative of Senator Ben Cardin. As Senator Ben Cardin is hosting a meeting with Muslim Leaders at Bait us Samad on February 1st 2016, his representative invited all the guests on that occasion. He also mentioned Senator Ben Cardin’s efforts to fight racial discrimination and his bill to stop racial profiling by law enforcement agencies.
The second speaker was Police Captain, Christopher Kelly of 9th Precinct of Baltimore County which covers White Marsh area. He mentioned how different groups of immigrants have been discriminated against, in the past. He mentioned that he, himself is descendent of Irish immigrants and can understand how Muslims feel when they are discriminated. He encouraged audience to get out of their comfort zones and meet people at personal level. He said that there is good relationship with community leaders and Baltimore County Police but both sides can do more. He said that around 65% Muslims are first generation immigrants and have strong ties with their countries of birth and events of there affect them here in America. He also mentioned that those leaders who show empathy and humanity, history rewards them.
After her was Jenna McLaughlin; she is an investigative journalist that used to work for Mother Jones. Now she works for Intercept. She has investigated issues related to surveillance of American public in general and minorities in particular. She mentioned that she is not a preacher but a good listener and she voices the concerns of the people. She mentioned the concerns of other Muslim groups about government response to issues concerning them.
The next Speaker was Cathy Bevins. Cathy is representative of 6th district. She is a Baltimorean, born and raised in Dundalk in a Blue collar family. She greatly appreciated Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s moto “Love for All, Hatred for None” and she wants that to be the motto of whole world. She was wearing a head scarf that was presented to her by another Mosque here in Baltimore County. She mentioned that there are lot of misconception about the treatment of Muslim women. She also encourage people to visit mosques that way they will understand more about Muslims and this personal interaction will remove lots of misconceptions.
This was followed by a short speech by President Baltimore Chapter of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Dr. Faheem Younas, who thanked all the guests for their time and effort. As we were having some difficulty with our Audio Video system, guests were asked to text their questions to Dr. Faheem. Many guests still asked their question verbally and some send in written notes. Glitches in the speaker and mike provided some annoying and some funny moments.
First a Christian sister mentioned how each person is following a path to reach the same God and we should respect each other’s paths and traditions. Next question was about the tradition of “bloody messiah” among Muslims. Imam Hammad explained misconception of Muslims who are waiting for a Messiah who along with Imam Mahdi, will kill people of other faiths if they don’t convert to Islam. He explained that the actual prophecies of Holy Prophet Mohammad and how Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad is the Promised Messiah who waged a Jihad of Pen.
3rd question was about why Muslim women pray separately. Imam Hammad explained the reason and traditions behind it.
4th question was about disagreements among Muslims and how some Muslims sects don’t think that Ahmadies are Muslims. Imam Hammad explained that disagreements exist in all religions and in case of Islam such disagreements were prophesized by Holy Prophet Mohammad (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him). Dr. Younas mentioned that he would like to have debate with other Muslim sects.
5th question was about why Muslim women wear Hijab? Dr. Younas asked that a Muslim lady should answer so an Ahmadi Muslim lady from women side answered the question.
6th question was actually a comment by a Christian Pastor, who said that although he does condemn violence of ISIS and other extremist groups but for him it is important to listen to the story of your enemy and try to understand why they decided to do such violent acts.
Next guest asked that Prophet Mohammad also conquered lots of countries and places so what is the difference between his conquests and the territorial gains of ISIS? Imam Hammad mentioned that lots of territories that came under Muslim rule in the life of Holy Prophet was because people converted to Islam and those who didn’t convert were given complete religious freedom. On the other hand ISIS does totally opposite to this.
Next guest asked why young Muslim girls don’t wear Hijab and at what age they are supposed to wear Hijab? Dr. Younas said that this question should be answered by a young Muslim girl. So a teenage girl from lady’s side answered this question. She mentioned the reasons why she wears hijab and at what age she decided to wear hijab. She said that she feels more confident and mature because of it and other people judge her based on her talent and knowledge not by her outerwear.
Another comment was given by Sharon from Trinidad. She mentioned that how people of Trinidad belong to diverse cultures and religions and yet live happily together. They respect each other and celebrate all religious events. She suggested that audience should try to befriend somebody who doesn’t look like themselves. They should try to know somebody from a different culture and religion.
Next question was from a gentleman who wanted to know what Islam thinks about LGBT people and if LGBT people exist in Muslim communities. Dr. Faheem mentioned that sexual relationships are very private matter and are not discussed in public, so if somebody is gay or lesbian that is their personal matter. In Islam homosexual relationship is a sin. It is clearly forbidden in Quran. Quran mentions 700 dos and don’ts. Any person seeking nearness to God has to follow those commandments.
Next question was how some Muslim groups can justify oppression of women and Ahmadiyya Muslim Community can justify equality of women, if both follow same religious scriptures. Imam Hammad explained the Holy Prophet Mohammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) gave women so much liberty that sometimes his mail companions would jokingly complain about women interfering in their business. He mentioned that over the centuries Muslims have neglected the true teachings of Quran and Sunnah. As Ahmadiyya Muslim Community was founded by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who revived those pristine teachings of Islam, we believe that Quran and Sunnah give no reason to oppress women.
Last question was how Ahmadiyya Muslim Community thinks that America could solve the problem of ISIS? Imam Hammad mentioned that 5th successor of the Promised Messiah , Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad , has mentioned that we should cut off funding of the ISIS. Any military actions against ISIS should be very surgical and precise to minimize civilian casualties. Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad has discussed issue of extremism in detail in many of his sermons, lectures and letters. All these have been collected in one book “World Crisis and Pathway to Peace”
After this question Dr. Faheem lead audience in silent prayer and then guests were invited to refreshments and coffee. Guests intermingled each other for about an hour. The event ended with Isha prayer.