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British, Canadian Muslims work to burnish image
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In the wake of alleged Islamic terrorist links to both Britain and Canada, Muslims in both nations are reaching out to their communities in order to burnish their image, media reports indicate. - photo by Mark A. Kellner
The challenges of being a Muslim in Britain and Canada have been magnified in recent weeks with reports identifying a British-educated ISIS member as "Jihadi Johnny" and a Canadian mall allegedly being targeted for an al-Shabab attack.

Partly in response to these issues, and others, Muslims in the two countries have undertaken community outreach projects to burnish their image, media reports indicate.

In Canada, a mosque in Edmonton, Alberta, held an open house to share its faith with the public, GlobalNews reported. The goal, a community leader said, was to demonstrate a commitment to peace and not violence.

Mohyuddin Mirza, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Edmonton's outreach director, said, "We just want to promote the idea we are living in your community, come and see us, you wont see any violence."

The mosque mailed invites to residents near its location, and one resident felt the experience was positive.

"I just think that they are our neighbors, and why shouldnt we learn something about their culture," Carol Donahue, who has lived in the area for 31 years, told GlobalNews.

Ahmadiyya Muslims across Canada are opening their homes for a #MeetAMuslimFamily campaign during the first two weeks of March, CTV News reports from Vaughan City, Ontario, Canada.

"Through this campaign Canadian Muslims will showcase to their fellow Canadians that a Muslim's faith is not in conflict with Canadian values," the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama'at Canada group said in a statement.

The Safwan Choudhry family hosted Vaughan City Councilor Marilyn Iafrate and her daughter for a meal Sunday, CTV reported.

"Being together and sharing common values this is a moment where we can experience and solidify what we know and the food is awesome," said Iafrate.

Salman Farsi, a spokesman for the East London Mosque in Britain, told NPR of his concerns over reports linking British-educated Muslims with the Islamic States.

"Most Muslims and there's 2.7 million Muslims living here in Britain most Muslims feel they're very much part of the community, part of society, part of Britain, and so when our sentiments and feelings are not those that are perceived by the rest of society, it's quite challenging," Farsi said.

But while there are concerns about how Muslims are perceived in Britain, one group, NPR reported in a separate story, has worked to build understanding by creating an interfaith center in an unused Anglican church in Bolton, a town near Manchester, England.

Inayat Omarji, once the head of a local council of mosques, led an interfaith group to accomplish the renovation.

"What (Bolton) needed is a place where people could meet, people can come to, people can socialize," he told NPR. "The name just said it all: All Souls. If somebody says 'Oh, is this, is it just for the Muslim community?' ... No, just think about the name: All Souls. (It's) for everybody."

The community center, which now boasts a halal cafe popular with locals, remains a consecrated Christian church and, once a month, will host a Christian worship service, the report noted.

"I think it's been brilliantly done," a former All Souls vicar, the Rev. Gerald Higham said. "It could so easily have just been gutted."
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