Calling himself “a moderate”, Hussein Hamdani claims that Islam “has been distorted by fundamentalists like Osama bin Laden”
Author: Bruce Culp
Source: Standard / St. Catharines, November 17, 2001, p. A3
Original title: Ramadan begins in Niagara with prayers for peace
The halls of the Al-Noor Mosque in St. Catharines echoed with pleas for peace during Friday’s afternoon prayers, directed to God at the start of the holy month of Ramadan.
In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, local Muslim leaders say they will open their observances to people of any faith in an attempt to satisfy public curiosity and calm fears about Islam.
In doing so, they hope others will come to understand the essence of their religion, still associated by many Canadians with intolerance, sexism and extremism.
“With war going on in Afghanistan, we simply pray for peace,” said Zakir Ali, president of the Islamic Society of St. Catharines. “We hope that our prayers are heard.”
Today, in communities across Canada, about 650,000 Muslims have begun abstaining from food and drink from dawn till dusk.
Adherents will pray, reflect and repent during the month-long fast, believing that it was during the ninth month that God revealed the holy Koran through the prophet Mohammed.
To show their piety, Muslims abstain from all food, drink, smoking, sex and other pleasures during daylight. Still, it is also a festive season, when families and friends gather in homes after sunset to break the fast with special dishes.
But at stake this year is a larger issue. Many faithful are asking themselves what is the true message of the Koran, the Muslim holy book.
Some Muslim leaders — such as Hussein Hamdani, who preaches at the local mosque — are trying to reclaim its holy teachings from extremists.
Hamdani, a Toronto law student originally from St. Catharines, calls himself a moderate. As such, he believes Islam has been distorted by fundamentalists like Osama bin Laden.
“We have a situation where many brothers have abandoned social justice and are filled with hate and anger,” said Hamdani. “The last few months have been difficult for us.”
Niagara’s estimated 5,000 Muslims have experienced intolerance. The Al-Noor Mosque was scorched by an arsonist on the night of Sept. 11.
“Ramadan, this year, came at a perfect time,” said Hamdani. “We are trying to get back to a religion that is full of spirituality and love for humanity.”
Photo: The Standard / Worshippers pray at the Al-Noor Mosque in St. Catharines. The month-long feast of Ramadan began Friday.