Meet me before you judge me: Muslim’s invitation to his neighbours

Meet me before you judge me: Muslim’s invitation to his neighbours

Sometimes a cup of coffee can make the difference between ignorance and knowledge.

Muslim imam and missionary Mustenser Qamar has extended an invitation to his Lower Hutt community: come over for a cuppa and a chat.

The idea behind it is for people to get to know a Muslim.

“I was encouraged to do it by what is going on in the world – the proposed Muslim ban [in the United States]. I thought it was really important that I reach out to my neighbours,” he said.

He originally made a post on inviting people to meet up with him, and said he was surprised by the reaction.

“I don’t think I’d seen that sort of response on a post before. I actually encouraged a few of my friends in Auckland and New Plymouth to do the same thing.”

Since making the post more than a week ago, he has met about six people face-to-face, and is busy organising times to meet more.

He has talked to atheists about his belief, and what it means to him, but he has also had more casual chats with young families, bonding over childraising. Qamar’s first child, Bashir, was born on January 27.

His newborn son was another motivator for him to reach out.

“My child is going to grow up [in New Zealand]. I don’t want him to grow up where he will be judged on the actions of a few.”

Qamar has been in New Zealand for 18 months, after moving from Britain. He spent seven years studying Islam and comparative religion, and is open to frank discussions about his beliefs.

He is a missionary for the Ahmadiyya Islamic movement. Ahmadis believe Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the 19th-century founder of their movement, to be the divinely appointed messiah and imam Mahdi, whose advent was foretold in different world scriptures and by the prophet Mohammed.

Qamar said other Muslims would often not recognise Ahmadis. A key message of the Ahmadiyya movement was “love for all, hatred for none”.

As part of his efforts to break down barriers and misconceptions about his religion, he has a YouTube channel called “Meet a Muslim NZ”, and is helping to organise a Koran exhibition in New Plymouth this weekend.

To meet Qamar for a chat, contact him through Twitter @MustenserAQamar, or call 0800 Y ISLAM.

Dulmial’s Ahmadis reel in aftermath of mob attack

The consequences of the Dec 12 attack in a village where Sunni Muslims and Ahmadis have lived for a century are still being revealed, two months after the incident.

CHAKWAL: Dulmial resident Malik Zahid Hameed was shocked when he received a transfer order stating that he was being transferred to a primary school in Lari Shah Nawaz on Jan 6.

Mr Hameed, 47, is a primary school teacher who taught at a school in his hometown from 2002 to 2012.

In 2012, he was transferred to a school in the nearby Tatral Kahoon village, where he was recently replaced by “Khodija Siddeqa of Lari Shah Nawaz”, according a transfer order issued by Executive District Officer (EDO) Education Dr Ghulam Anjum.

The order reads: “An application submitted by a resident of village Tatral Kahoon and members of SMC of Government Primary School Tatral Kahoon regarding the activities of Mr. Zahid Hameed PST of the said school who belongs to Ahmadi firqa.

“And due to the current incident at village Dulmial the Muslim community of the village demanded to shift the said teacher immediately to other school and no vacant post of PST is available in tehsil Choa Saidan Shah. Therefore Ms. Khodija Siddeqa of Lari Shah Nawaz may be shifted to GPS Tatral Kahoon and Mr. Zahid Hameed is hereby shifted to GPS Lari Shah Nawaz on administrative grounds to resolve the grievances of the community.”

Mr Hameed’s new school is around 18 kilometres from Dulmial, and while the order states that that he has been transferred to ease the “grievances” of Tatral Kahoon’s Muslim community, it does not explain what these grievances are, or what sort of “activities” Mr Hameed has indulged in.

A day after he received the transfer order, Mr Hameed was told by his assistant education officer that he could not teach at the school in Lari Shah Nawaz either, because the area’s residents were not willing to accept his transfer.

The Dec 12, 2016 mob attack on an Ahmadi place of worship has disrupted the lives of Ahmadis in Dulmial. Like the Sunni Muslims of Dulmial, Muslims from Tatral Kahoon are also furious with members of the persecuted community because a man from Tatral Kahoon was killed in the attack.

On Jan 25, Mr Hameed submitted an application with the EDO education asked for a posting in Dulmial so he could work easily, action has not yet been taken in this regard. Dr Anjum, meanwhile, told Dawn he was doing his best to find a solution.

The consequences of the Dec 12 attack in a village where Sunni Muslims and Ahmadis have lived for a century are still being revealed, two months after the incident. Up to 100 police officials are still deployed in the village.

Even though a case has been registered against 3,000 people, on charges of terrorism and sections of the PPC, only 61 people have been arrested and deemed guilty by a joint investigation team.

In the meantime, a social boycott has begun against the village’s Ahmadi residents. Mr Hameed said they are not able to visit shops, and have to travel to Choa Saidan Shah just to buy daily household items.

“One of my Sunni relatives died a couple of days ago but I could not go for condolence,” said Maqsood Begum, 67. “[They] do not even speak to us.”

The place of worship that was attacked in December is still sealed, and local police are unwilling to reopen it.

“The Muslims have 10 mosques in the village, while we only have one place of worship and that too is sealed. We have to pray five times a day but we cannot visit our place of worship,” said one Ahmadi resident.

The place of worship remains sealed despite an order, available with Dawn, issued on Jan 17 by the National Commission for Human Rights. It stated: “The commission recommends to the police/administration to move into the relevant court for withdrawal of the application filed under section 145 of Criminal Procedure Code.

While local politicians are trying to reconcile the two communities, the village’s Muslim community is unwilling to hand the place of worship back to the Ahmadi community before a court decision.

The spokesperson for the Jammat-i-Ahmadiya Pakistan, Salimuddin, said: “This not the way to deprive a community of its place of worship. The place of worship should be unsealed and restored to the Dec 11 position. Then let the legal battle begin. We will accept the court’s decision.”

Published in Dawn, February 9th, 2017