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American Muslims Fight Negative Stereotype of Islam

As the Muslim holy month of Ramadan draws to a close later this week, one community east of Los Angeles is trying to reach out to non-Muslims and show them what international news is not saying about their faith.

The month of Ramadan is a time when Muslims fast and focus on God. And in the town of Chino, at the Baitul Hameed Mosque, it is also a time when Muslims and some non-Muslims find themselves in a similar plight, said Chino Police Chief Karen Comstock.

“We, as law enforcement professionals, share in your same plight because every day on the news, you are watching, you are watching the secular media tell you a story about law enforcement and policing that I am telling you is wrong. There are men and women in this profession, which I love so much, that are performing with a high degree of professionalism and accuracy and protecting the community that you live in,” said Comstock.

Similar to media coverage of over policing in the United States, many Muslims, including Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Los Angeles East Chapter President Ahsan Mahmood Khan, say news of Islamic extremists in the Middle East and around the world does not reflect who they are.

“You hear a lot in the news about ISIL or ISIS and what is going on in the Middle East. It is just terrible, and we hear this in the news every day. And it is very similar to what happened post-9/11, with what was going on with al-Qaida where you had this juxtaposition. You had those who claim to be Muslim doing the most heinous acts and proclaiming the name of Allah and in the name of the holy prophet and doing such horrible things, and then you have a community like ours,” said Khan.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, unlike most Muslims, believes its Messiah arrived in the 19th century. A few years ago, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community started a campaign in the U.S. called “Muslims for Loyalty.” Khan said its message is a devout Muslim can also be a loyal American.

“[It] ss a way for us to reach out to the communities around the world and show that as Muslims we are also loyal to our nation,” said Khan.

The imam of the Baitul Hameed Mosque, Mohammed Zafarullah, said Islam is a religion of peace, but that extremists tarnish his faith.

“Those people who are doing these kind of things, they say they are Muslim but according to our religion, they are not a real Muslim because that is ... they have their own agenda, which they are using in the name of the religion,” he said.

Some Muslims here say they are concerned some of the younger generation in other parts of the world may be affected by extremism.

“The only way to counter this negative image that may be conveyed to the young people is for our own youth to engage in setting the record straight,” said Khan.