Muslim scholar Mohamed Ghilan is giving talks on Islam to various community groups in Greater Victoria this month. Ghilan pictured here at the Masjid Al-Iman Mosque on Quadra Street

Sharing the faith

Muslim scholar and student hosts information sessions to explain how followers live their faith and what they believe

Mohamed Ghilan has seen the way his faith is portrayed and the assumptions that come with it. He wants to change that.

The Islamic scholar and doctorate student is holding a number of informative sessions about what Muslims believe and how they live their faith.

“I’d say right now it’s being played out as a violent religion that seeks the oppression of freedom,” he said.

Born in Saudi Arabia and now a Victoria resident, Ghilan has been studying Islam for the last seven years.

“According to Islam law, it guarantees freedom of beliefs. So, it’s odd that this misconception is being portrayed.”

Ghilan said he feels pressure to raise awareness to prevent the rise of Islamophobia. Islamophobia is the prejudice against or hatred of Islam and Muslims.

“It [the media] gives the impression that Muslims are walking ticking bombs,” he said.

Women’s distinguishing traditional head coverings make them targets for Islamophobia.

“For women, it’s hard because they are visually a Muslim woman. If I have a long beard they will mistake me for a hipster.”

Victoria is not innocent of Islamophobia.

Ghilan says Muslims have faced stigma and discrimination here too.

“They do get comments, some people tell them to go home.”

His goal after these Q&A sessions is to put a face to Islam.

“I’m hoping for positive. I’ve been going around and giving speeches, it does change perspective,” he said.

Allan Saunders is the lead minister at First Metropolitan United Church where Ghilan will be speaking on March 17 and 24.

“We saw a growing concern about the misunderstandings that are taking place in our society,” said Saunders.

The church hopes to build respect between different religions in Victoria as well as a better understanding.

“A lot of people don’t realize there has been other ways the Muslim community has had some negative things happen, so we think its important to get to know your neighbours,” he said.

Saunders also said newscasts featuring extremists can easily influence opinions.

“It’s unfortunately all too easy to let that taint their Muslim view. We want people to come learn about the differences and similarities between different religions.”

Q-and-A with Mohamed Ghilan will take place on Saturday (March 7) at 7 p.m. at St. Aidan’s Sanctuary. Please call 250-893-1088 for more info.

Love Your Muslim Neighbour will take place March 17 and 24 at the First Metropolitan United Church, starting at 7 p.m.

For more info, please call 250-388-5188.

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