Lithgow resident Usman Mahmood has organised a question and answer evening with his imam on Friday, May 19, where any queries about Islam can be resolved.
Mr Mahmood said that after a short presentation, the audience can address questions they have about the religion to Imam Mohammed Atae Rabbi Hadi who will be travelling to Lithgow for the event.
“People can feel free to ask anything: Sharia, jihad, halal food, head scarves, anything,” Mr Mahmood said.
“We will not be offended.”
Imam Mohammed Atae Rabbi Hadi is the religious leader of a mosque in Marsden Park, which belongs to the ‘Ahmadiyya’ branch of Islam.
Mr Hadi, who describes himself as a religious pluralist, has taken part in many Q&A and interfaith events. He said people often question aspects of Islam they hear about on the news.
“The most common questions revolve around the confused messages people get from what they see on TV. I encourage people to come to our events and clarify any misconceptions,” Mr Hadi said.
“Our teachings are peaceful, contrary to what many believe.”
Mr Hadi said he wasn’t surprised by people’s suspicion of Islam given how media portray its followers.
“I often see abusive comments passed around the internet that are misinformed. At the end of the day I cannot blame people for that misconception.
“I think journalism can be sensationalist because they know that stories about atrocities committed by a minority in the name of Islam sell easily.
“Those stories do not cover the actual teachings of Islam, which are contrary to what these people are acting out.”
"I think if having a platform for people to ask questions means less people are living in fear then that would be a great achievement."
He said he hoped the event would encourage a more positive view of Muslims.
“Some people have an innate fear of Muslims and I really hope doing these events allows people to be not so afraid. I think if having a platform for people to ask questions means less people are living in fear then that would be a great achievement.”
Imam Hadi visited Lithgow a fortnight ago to meet local MP Paul Toole and federal member Andrew Gee, as well as local Christian leaders.
“There is a great community in Lithgow. It’s a nice area.”
He commended Mr Mahmood for his service to Lithgow and the Red Cross.
“He’s a very passionate individual and I think if you asked what drives him he would say it’s his core ideals, those of his religion, which are to help mankind and people in general.”
The Q&A will be held at the Western Sydney University Lithgow Campus, 154 Mort Street, from 5 to 7pm.
The event is free, however, you must RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.