Farmington Valley Muslim on Islam: 'We Are the Religion of Peace.'

Until recently, the closest places for Farmington Valley Muslims to worship were mosques in Hartford and Berlin.

But six to eight months ago, a group called the Farmington Valley American Muslim Center formed after identifying a need to bring worship right to the region so families wouldn't have to travel so far.

On Thursday, Aug. 8, about 250 Farmington Valley Muslims gathered at the Unionville Lion's Club on West Avon Road to celebrate Eid ul-Fitr, which falls at the end of a month of fasting for Ramadan.

The FVAMC hosted the event, inviting people of all faiths to observe, learn about the religion, ask questions and eat with the attending Muslims as they broke fast.

“Our celebration is about coming together as a community and strengthening our bonds,” Khamis Abu-Hasaballah, who led the prayers Thursday, said in a press release. “We’re excited to share a traditional Muslim celebration with our neighbors and friends in the Farrmington Valley community and give them a peek into our culture and traditions.”

Atique Mirza, one of the founding members on the organization's Board of Directors and a cardiologist in the area, said that the group does not intend to build a mosque, but is searching for a home in then Farmington Valley for an interfaith center, quite possible the largest center of its kind in Connecticut. It would provide a place to worship and the opportunity for the organization to educate others on Islam and also for people of different faiths to learn about each other's religions.

"Most of the problems we have is of not knowing each other. We have more commonalities than differences so we have to promote commonalities," Mirza, of Avon, said.

He called Islam "the religion of peace."

"We condemn any killings, any human rights violations anywhere in the world for any religion, any race or any ethnicity," Mirza said.

His daughter, Mehwish Mirza is an Avon High School graduate and rising junior at Wellesley College in Massachusetts studying to become a doctor like her parents. She said there is a growing base of Muslims in Avon and the area and that people are generally accepting of her and her religion.

However, there are many misconceptions floating around about Islam and she said that part of that is separating the religion from the cultures of different communities that follow it. For instance, the oppression of women may exist in some countries where Islam is the predominant religion, but she said that is not the case everywhere and is more cultural. 

Board member Wendy Burki, of Farmington, said that oppression of women has no direct relation to the religion itself. For instance, she said that Islamic scriptures describe Prophet Mohammed's wife as praying beside him and that the Quran gives women rights such as inheritance and divorce "that existed long before Christianity." Mirza said that the Quran also encourages women to get an education, pursue careers and become leaders in their communities.

Burki converted to the religion from a Christian upbringing after marrying Nausherwan Burki, a Muslim from Pakistan. 

"When I first visited Pakistan, I was shocked at how opinionated and outspoken the women were, all of the women I was around. And very well educated," Wendy Burki said. "Also, the Quran commits many, many of its chapters and verses to the praise of women and Maryam, Jesus' mother. There's a very, very long chapter on her and women are shown respect. And I have found that to be my personal experience when I'm in Pakistan."

As a white American, Burki said that people often assume she's Christian or Jewish, so she hears some of the "biases and the insults" about the Islamic religion that her husband may not. 

"Sadly, I think most of this comes from the media," Burki said, noting a vast difference between how stories about the Muslim World are reported in England and Europe versus the United States. "The perception is completely different. I mean, our terrible tragedy here in Connecticut, they didn't say 'Christian terrorist went into Newtown.' They would never use those two terms together and yet it's as though 'Islamic terrorist,' the two go together and they're so different."

Those are the types of barriers and misconceptions about the Islamic religion that the FVAMC is trying to break down and bring unity between people of different faiths. Atique Mirza said this area is home for many Muslims, many of which have children, jobs and are involved in their communities like any other family. Friendship and peace are very important to the modern American Muslim, he said. 

"We want people to know that we are above and beyond the CNN commentary.... We call it a religion of peace. We want people to know that this is the religion of peace," Mirza said. "We are the modern Muslims and we want people to know what modern Muslims look like, what they do, how they perform their religious duties. and what our human values are. We need to learn how to live together."
Stephanie stewart August 09, 2013 at 11:44 AM
I really enjoyed the first Iftar dinner. There is so much to be learned by all of us, about all the world's faiths. All faiths have their traditions. I look forward to continued sharing of, and learning about the many faiths in our community.
Marlin Williams August 10, 2013 at 07:33 AM
Religion of Peace? The United States just closed 16 of its Embassies worldwide as a result of this 'Religion of Peace'. And just yesterday, in Zanzibar, two pretty young British Girls on vacation, tourists, had acid thrown in their faces by Muslim men on motorcycles, a political act. There is your Orwellian 'Religion of Peace.'
Marlin Williams August 10, 2013 at 08:13 AM
Ask the Coptic Christians in Egypt, or the Jews in Iran and Iraq about the vaunted tolerance Muslims have for other religions when they are in the majority. The recent Somalian riots in Stockholm, the massive car torchings in the suburbs surrounding Paris, the beheading of a British soldier on the streets of London, the murder of Vincent Nan Gogh's nephew with a dagger in the back in Holland, the Chechen terrorists behind the Boston Marathon murders (including an 8 year old boy) ... just a few examples of peaceful Muslim overtures to the 'Infidels ' they've chosen to live amongst.
Brian C. Duffy August 12, 2013 at 07:55 PM
Oh please, Marlin. Name any religion of peace. Ask the Jews about the Christian terrorist named Hitler. Ask the British in the bombed out King David Hotel about the Jewish terrorist named Menachem Begin and co. Ask the Muslims of the Middle Ages about the British and other European (Christian) Crusaders. Ask the British Protestants about the Irish Catholics. Ask the American Jews, Catholics, and Black Protestants about the Southern Baptist "christian" KKK. The Hutu and Tutsi in Africa. The Sikhs and Hindus in India. I could go on and on.
Marlin Williams August 13, 2013 at 04:05 PM
Nazism was atheistic, just like its 1st cousin the Communists. The SA, as well as the first SS Regiment, the Lebstandarte SS, Hitler's Bodyguard, recruited within the German Homosexual community. That was the main qualification to get in


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