Many Muslims are concerned that terrorist attacks carried out in the name of Islam are creating a false impression that the faith is violent by its very nature. A group of American Muslims has launched a campaign at Times Square in New York City to defend Islam against that impression.
Amid the blaze of lights at Times Square in New York City are signs advertising a range of goods and services -- from restaurants to theaters, from pharmaceuticals to the New York Yankees baseball team.
This holiday season, there is also a 15-second video sponsored by Muslims for Peace, a group that follows the pacifist tradition within Islam. It promotes a message of Muslim love, loyalty and peace.
"Unfortunately, Muslims sometimes get labeled as terrorists, or not being loyal to the U.S. But our teaching is very fundamental to Islam, is that you have to be loyal to your homeland. And that's what we're preaching," said spokesman Ahmad Chaudhry:
He says the Muslims for Peace campaign was launched in response to the attempted terrorist bombing in Times Square in May of this year. "We decided that we didn't want to just sit back and condemn terrorism from our seats, but we actually wanted to get out and show the people we are peaceful Muslims," he said.
Along with the video, activists at Times Square and throughout the United States are handing out a leaflet to passersby. It explains that Muslims for Peace is part of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, a pacifist Islamic group organized more than a century ago. Its founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of India, urged his followers to defend Islam not by the sword, but by the pen. Ahmadiyya Muslims claim more than 15,000 mosques and tens of millions of adherents.
Among those who got the leaflet was Joe Coyle, a commercial real estate agent from New Jersey. "I've traveled the entire United States. We're here to just all come together and build our country to make things great here. I'm in support of any good that's being done. I have many friends from many religions and that's the way it should be. I wish them luck today and for those can reach out to and learn their message, may God bless," he said.
Ahmad Chaudhry says militant Muslims, especially the September 11, 2001 terrorists, have skewed the impression of Islam in the media and people's minds around the world. Chaudhry says Muslims for Peace members are seeking to dispel as false any notion that those militants represent Islam. The true faith, he says is one of love for others, loyalty to one's country, and peace for all.