On the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, there was an upsurge of anti-Muslim sentiment in some places, and burnings of the Qur'an.
“It was really sad, that the people did not open the book and read what it says,” said Aisha Tasneem. If they had, they might have discovered that the Qur'an preaches understanding and tolerance, good deeds instead of hatred, she said.
“Allah loves those who do good.”
Tasneem, a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at (AMJ) Women’s Association, recently helped organize a display of the Holy Quran at the Bradford West Gwillimbury Public Library, hoping to encourage a greater understanding of Islam.
The AMJ has translated the Qur'an, the collected teachings of the Prophet Mohammad written in the sixth century, into 50 languages – with selected verses translated into 114 languages.
What is truly interesting, Tasneem said, is that “there are so many similarities” between passages in the Qur'an and other religious texts.
The Qur'an teaches respect for the teachings of other religions and prophets, she noted. “They all came from God – sent by God to guide the people at the time. That’s what the scriptures teach us: How to have a better life, a peaceful society.”
“Allah chooses His messengers from among angels, and from among men.”
The library display included more than volumes of the Qur'an, in languages ranging from Portuguese and English, to Urdu and Bengali. It also included posters and printed pamphlets that addressed controversial issues and misconceptions – including the status of women.
Tasneem pointed out that at the time of the Prophet Mohammed, women were considered as little more than the property of men.
“All of a sudden, the Qur'an came and gave women status,” she said.
The prophet taught that men and women are spiritual equals, and “are equally the recipients of God’s favours and bounties,” with the right to education, to work in a chosen field, to own and inherit property, to select their own life partners, and to divorce, she said.
“It gave women financial security,” Tasneem said, noting western women did not achieve the same level of equality until the 20th century. “It was really a revolutionary thing.”
In fact, she said, all Muslims are encouraged to be like Mary, the mother of Jesus, or Asiya, adoptive mother of Moses and wife of Pharaoh, who believed in the God of Moses, despite the anger of her husband.
“These women are an example for all men and women – this is who you should aspire to be like.”
As for the hijab, the head covering worn by some Muslim women, it is described as simply providing a woman “with an environment of respect and dignity.”
The AMJ's women’s association currently has about 200 members in the Bradford West Gwillimbury area. The group has held other displays and educational events.
“This time we really wanted to focus on the Holy Qur'an and get rid of some misconceptions,” Tasneem said.
Visitors to the exhibit were encouraged to read, look, and ask questions.
“We are trying to build more understanding" through education, said Tasneem. “This is what Qur'an is. This is what the Holy Prophet is. This is why we love him.”
The motto of the AMJ community is "Love for all, hatred for none.”