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‘People hear the word Islam and feel fear and think of terror’: The London Imam, 26, fighting Islamophobia

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At simply 26 years outdated, Adeel Shah is one of Britain’s youngest Imams, and he has devoted his life to serving to communities of all backgrounds and cultures.

Helping the homeless, volunteering at meals banks, elevating £1 million by means of charity walks, litter choosing and providing assist throughout the Covid pandemic are just a few of the ways in which Adeel and the Ahmadiyya Muslim group have helped individuals from all sectors of society.

He says that the work that his tight-knit group does has not solely had a constructive affect on the individuals they got down to assist, however has additionally had an impact on the prevalence of Islamophobia in London – notably in mild of latest terror assaults by “so-called Muslims”.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim group is led by the motto ‘Love for all, hatred for none’, utilizing sensible measures to deal with the dire have to make the world a extra peaceable place. Its members are estimated to quantity round 10 to twenty million worldwide.

Adeel hopes that the Ahmadiyya Muslim message of peace by means of Islam will assist to interrupt down the unconscious bias that has been fostered in opposition to Muslims by information of extremism and terrorism.

He stated: “Nothing in Islam promotes or advocates for terror or terrorism, so these are so-called Muslims which perform these acts. Islam is about peace, you’ll be able to’t have peaceable terrorism.

The Baitul Futuh Mosque in Morden is one of the greatest mosques in Western Europe

“In truth, there’s a passage in the Quran which says that if you happen to kill even a single soul, it is as if you happen to’ve killed the entire of humanity. But if you happen to save a single soul, it is as if you happen to’ve saved the entire of humanity.

“This is the precedent that Islam is constructed on: it teaches peace, it promotes peace. But the media typically leads a unconscious bias that terrorism comes from Islam, and then individuals hear the word ‘Islam’ and feel fear and think of terror.”

In South London, Adeel is predominantly primarily based at the Baitul Futuh Mosque in Morden, Merton – one of the largest mosques in Western Europe and a landmark for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.

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Ahmadiyya Muslims consider in the second coming of the Messiah in 1835: They consider that God despatched Mirza Ghulam Ahmad to revive morality, justice and peace.

While the group has been established in the UK since 1913, in trendy occasions its give attention to spreading love and serving to communities appears to have had an necessary affect on combating Islamophobia.

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Adeel Shah (second from left, entrance row) and the Croydon Nightwatch volunteer group, who assist homeless individuals in Croydon with meals and different assets each night time

‘I’m a agency believer that schooling breeds tolerance’

Adeel defined how the response of the Ahmadiyya group to the Westminster Bridge assault in 2017 is an ideal instance of how visibility and a transparent message of peace has helped deal with intolerance in direction of Muslims.

He stated: “When the Westminster Bridge assault occurred, our group was there for the subsequent couple of days for a vigil.

“There had been 500 or 600 of us, and we had been carrying blue shirts – on the entrance it stated ‘I’m a Muslim, ask me something’. I used to be additionally holding a banner which had our group motto on it, which is ‘Love for all, hatred for none’.

“We needed anybody with any considerations or queries to return to us and ask us.”

Adeel remembers an interplay he had with a person who walked previous and angrily requested: “Why are you right here?”

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Hundreds of Muslims gathered on Westminster Bridge to hope and keep in mind the victims of the 2017 terror assault

He stated: “I might inform he did not ask me out of curiosity, he was truly saying ‘Why are you right here? Go away, it’s because of you’.

“But the constructive was that he was truly open to dialogue. He stated what he stated in anger, however he was able to have a dialog.”

Adeel spoke to the man for simply 10 minutes about the group work he and different Muslims are devoted to, explaining that that is what Islam teaches, not violence.

“It was only a 10 minute dialog, however it affected him a lot that in the finish he gave me a hug,” he stated.

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“He instructed me he’d been dwelling in London for round 10 years, and he’d by no means spoken to a Muslim. I used to be gobsmacked.

“It simply goes to point out that there are people who find themselves solely taking in adverse details about Islam from media protection of terrorism, and it is pure that they are fearful of Islam. But in having that dialog, a ten yr outdated adverse opinion will be modified in simply 10 minutes.

“I’m a agency believer that schooling breeds tolerance.”

Helping throughout the pandemic

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the Ahmadiyya Muslim group have devoted the final yr to serving to these in dire want.

From March to mid-December 2020, throughout the UK the group helped 21,407 households with meals and drugs deliveries, donated 6,290 items of PPE and 10,036 meals packages to entrance line employees, donated 1,617 meals to the homeless, delivered 673,000 items of PPE on behalf of the authorities, carried out blood donation drives – and extra.

This was all half of the “innate perspective to serving the group” fostered amongst Ahmadiyya Muslims from a younger age, Adeel explains, and their dedication to serving to others meant they may actually make a distinction throughout the pandemic.

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Ahmadiyya Muslims volunteering at a meals financial institution

There continues to be work to be achieved in the struggle in opposition to Islamophobia, however Adeel stays content material that Britain is just not an Islamophobic nation.

He stated: “I’ve learn in the information that there are locations in the UK the place it’s troublesome for ladies to put on the hijab, the place they’re met with taunts and feedback, and we have had the occasional vandalism on our mosques.

“But I think basically the UK actually appreciates multiculturalism and totally different cultures.

“Islamophobia does exist, however I think if we are saying that Britain is an Islamophobic nation, full of Islamophobes, then we can’t be doing justice to the majority of the nation who recognize how prevalent Muslims are in the UK.”

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