Christchur­ch imam calls for cul­tural un­der­stand­ing

The National - News - - NEWS EMIRATES - PATRICK RYAN

Open com­mu­ni­ca­tion is needed to undo the dam­age of stereo­typ­ing against Is­lam in the West, ac­cord­ing to the imam of a mosque in New Zealand where dozens of Mus­lims were killed in a ter­ror­ist at­tack this year.

At the World Tol­er­ance Sum­mit in Dubai on Thurs­day, Ga­mal Fouda, imam of Al Noor Mosque in Christchur­ch, said mov­ing to New Zealand showed him how dif­fi­cult it can be to adapt to other cul­tures.

“I am of­ten asked why the West views Is­lam as the re­li­gion of vi­o­lence and ex­trem­ism,” Mr Fouda said.

“There is of­ten a bar­rier of lan­guage – some­times the peo­ple who are in­tro­duc­ing Is­lam to oth­ers just don’t have the right lan­guage to ex­plain what it is.”

On March 15, a white su­prem­a­cist opened fire on wor­ship­pers at two mosques in Christchur­ch, killing more than 50 peo­ple.

Mr Fouda said the at­tack was the work of “a man full of ha­tred who had been brain­washed by an ir­re­spon­si­ble me­dia”.

If the West was to fully un­der­stand the mean­ing of Is­lam it was im­por­tant the right mes­sage was used, he said.

“Many Is­lamic books say ji­had is a holy war; this is to­tally in­cor­rect. All wars are un­holy ac­cord­ing to Is­lam.”

Mr Fouda moved to New Zealand from Egypt in 2003.

“It was re­ally dif­fi­cult for me at the start. I saw first-hand how those who are in­tro­duc­ing Is­lam to oth­ers need to un­der­stand and be able to com­mu­ni­cate in the cul­ture they are in.

“They need to know the right ap­proach to use.”

He said he would never for­get the at­tacks.

“It was a hor­rific thing I had to watch with my own eyes.”

But he praised the united front shown by the Mus­lim com­mu­nity in New Zealand and the coun­try’s lead­er­ship in re­sponse to the atroc­ity.

“They stood up and said: ‘We love our coun­try and are not go­ing to let hate di­vide us, love will re­deem us.’

Ga­mal Fouda praised the united front shown by the Mus­lim com­mu­nity in New Zealand af­ter the Christchur­ch at­tack

“Some po­lit­i­cal lead­ers af­fil­i­ate them­selves with the ex­trem­ist groups who be­lieve that hate will win.

“But [Jacinda Ardern] the prime min­is­ter of New Zealand stood up and said: ‘We are one, we mourn to­gether’.”

Mr Fouda said his ex­pe­ri­ences work­ing with Ro­man Catholic com­mu­nity lead­ers in New Zealand had shown him how much Is­lam had in com­mon with other re­li­gions.

“I lis­tened to what they were say­ing and re­alised it was ex­actly what we are say­ing in Is­lam.

“Re­li­gion can bring peace but you have to se­lect the cor­rect rep­re­sen­ta­tives to ed­u­cate peo­ple.”

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