Qur’an exhibitions, question sessions, public talks, mosque open days and candid, open-minded discussions might be a perfect way to dispel misconceptions.
Yet, for many, meeting face to face and asking direct questions could be the best way to build bridges.
In line with this, two imams in New Zealand are planning a series of ‘Meet a Muslim’ events on the first anniversary of the Christchurch mosque massacre.
The imams will be leading a group of youth as they venture across the country under the banner of the nationwide ‘True Islam NZ’ campaign.
Throughout the tour, the group will head to the streets wearing shirts saying “I’m a Muslim ask me anything” with the hope of starting discussions and hosting private gatherings.
Stops in the tour include Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington, Nelson, Picton, Blenheim, Grovetown, Kaikōura, Waipara, Amberley, Christchurch, Culverden, Hanmer Springs and Reefton.
“We invite everyone, whether you have questions or not, to just come and meet us. Get to know a Muslim or just come and ask any questions you have,” Waikato-based imam Sabahuzafar said.
Wellington-based Qamar started the project three years ago by posting his availability to meet on social media.
“There were a lot of questions about women’s rights … A lot of atheists want to talk about the existence of God or the concept of Jihad, but not everything is about religion. Sometimes we just talk about life,” he said.
Qamar said the”Meet a Muslim” campaign was timed to coincide with the terror attack remembrance events, to drive a counter-narrative and show “Muslims are no different”.
“As we recall the horrific events from last year, we remember the tragedy, the loss of life, but also the coming together of the whole nation and standing against discrimination and terror,” he said.
Thousands of New Zealand Muslims will mark the first anniversary of Christchurch terrorist shooting with prayers and national remembrance service.
The prayer service is planned at the Al Noor and Linwood Mosque communities on March 13 at Horncastle Arena.
The events come one year after terrorist Brenton Harrison Tarrant killed 51 Muslim worshippers in March-15 attacks as he targeted Al Noor and Linwood mosques.
Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand and the seat of the Canterbury Region.
It is home to 404,500 residents, making it New Zealand’s 3rd most populous city behind Auckland and Wellington.
One percent of the total New Zealand population adheres to Islam, according to several sources. Small numbers of Muslim immigrants from South Asia and Eastern Europe settled in New Zealand from the early 1900s until the 1960s.