NO DIVIDE: Muslims Down Under members Ali Basil, Salman Mansoor and Sheeraz Sirajur Raheem with Justine Halpin and Beth Boorer from Take Tthe Plunge Cafe at Kepnock.
NO DIVIDE: Muslims Down Under members Ali Basil, Salman Mansoor and Sheeraz Sirajur Raheem with Justine Halpin and Beth Boorer from Take Tthe Plunge Cafe at Kepnock. Rhylea Millar

Islam under spotlight in special Bundaberg event

FEAR is a survival mechanism that alerts the brain to danger, forcing a fight or flight response, but this reaction alters perception and causes misconceptions.

Since the fateful September 11 attacks and the rise of Isis, Muslims have been misportrayed in the media and labelled as terrorists.

Muslims Down Under will be hosting an event at Take the Plunge Cafe in Bundaberg on Saturday and event organiser Sheeraz Raheem welcomes everyone and their questions.

The organisation aims to educate the public and eliminate stereotypes of racism, extremism and Islamophobia.

"It's an event we really wanted to do in regional areas and we were told that Bundaberg was a really wonderful place and that this type of event would be well received here,” Mr Raheem said.

"We've received feedback from Muslims who work in regional towns that these areas have limited contact with our community.

"The negative stories of extremism is generally all the contact they have.”

"We see it all the time on social media, where people say they 'understand not all Muslims are bad but where are all the peaceful Muslims?' and so we really want to make ourselves available to the public.”

Ironically, some people who are frightened by the misrepresentation of Muslims are expressing their opinion through hateful speech, threats and acts of violence, behaviour that ignites the fear in the first place.

"Whenever you hear that there's been a terrorist attack, there's that instant feeling of fear,” Mr Raheem said.

"If you find out that it was a Muslim that was responsible, you feel like you need to justify your religion all over again.”

Muslims Down Under wants to use this opportunity to raise awareness, answer questions that the public might not usually feel comfortable asking and to demonstrate the difference between Muslims and extremists.

"We hope to change the narrative and in turbulent times like this, we should all stay united,” Mr Raheem said.

"I hope that for the sake of humanity we can achieve this and become the prominent voice for the Muslim community.”

The organisation says that, as Australian Muslims, its members believe in seven pillars, including loyalty to Australia, freedom of conscience, speech and religion, separation of state and religion, power and equality of women, no discrimination, no terrorism and service to humanity.

"It's the people that believe in these seven things that often suffer,” Mr Raheem said.

Despite the negative experiences that Mr Raheem and the Ahmaiyya Muslim Youth community have experienced, he is also grateful for the positive responses he has received.

"We are so grateful to Beth, Justine and the team at Take The Plunge Cafe,” he said.

"They started this cafe to unite the isolated people within the community and what they are doing really brings people together.

"And it resonates with what we are trying to do and that is to unite all members of the community.”

Entry to the Question Islam event is free.

It will begin at 10am on Saturday and Muslims Down Under welcome all members of the community and any questions they have.

For more information, visit the site wwwMuslimsDown Under.com.



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