Searching for peace and harmony

Pushing for more understanding among religions, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Albany held an interfaith symposium on Sunday, Jan. 30, at the Hindu Community Center on Albany-Shaker Road in Colonie with several religious leaders from the region participating.

The seminar, titled In Pursuit of Peace and Harmony, brought together religious leaders of Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish and Sikh backgrounds with the goal of promoting social and spiritual peace,

Paul Monshin, founder of the Tendai Buddhist Institute in Canaan, said he believes the country is going through a phase of Islamophobia, but, he said, at some point the focus could shift, making Buddhists or Jews into scapegoats.

"People are trying to find someone at fault," he said. "They [Muslims] seem to be a handy target."

Monshin acknowledged the many differences between faiths, but said that when one is attacked, then all of them are, creating a sense of unity between them all.

"We live in a Christian society, and that's fine," he said. "Today, it happens to be Muslims. Tomorrow it could be Greek Orthodox."

Making a special visit to the region was Naseem Mahdi, national vice president and missionary-in-charge of the American branch of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. He believes that there is a level of distrust of Muslims in the United States and that holding such a conference is needed at this time.

"They have fear," he said of some Americans. "When asked if they would like to have a Muslim as a neighbor, some said no. They questioned their loyalty."

Talking on the many common misconceptions regarding his faith, Mahdi said that the Quran, the sacred text of the Islamic religion, is about peace and harmony as opposed to violence. While there are passages about bloodshed and war, Mahdi said they should be taken in the full context of which they were intended.

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