Chino, USA - While recent headlines underscore the threat of domestic Islamic extremism to American citizens, a local Muslim group is trying to get more people to recognize the peaceful nature of their faith.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Chino has started a massive advertising campaign with signs on nearly 200 local Omnitrans buses in the Inland Empire.
The banners, which will run inside the buses for the next six months, read "Muslims for Peace, Freedom, Loyalty and Justice for all ... Love for all - hatred for none."
The banners are meant to spread a message of peace, but also a condemnation of terrorist acts that have made headlines, such as the attempted bombing earlier this month in Times Square in New York City.
Jonathan M.A. Gaffar, who authored and designed the bus sign, said the campaign aims to reverse negative perceptions of Muslims in the United States and to spread awareness of the Ahmadiyya community.
"In the media, it's only the terrorists and extremists who make the news and so for most public opinion, `Every Muslim is a terrorist,' and that's what they want you to believe," Gaffar said. "The reality is that most Muslims are peaceful, law-abiding, God-fearing people."
The campaign began in 2009 in London after the group's Caliph, or spiritual leader, Mirza Masroor Ahmad, directed followers to spread the message.
"The message we are using is saying we believe in peace, freedom, loyalty to our country and justice for all," Gaffar said. "When I wrote the ad, I wanted to end it with justice for all because ultimately Islam is about justice for everybody, so in a true Islamic society, everyone is protected."
Imam Shamshad Nasir, spiritual leader for the Ahmadiyya community in Chino, has been sharing the same message on "Understanding Islam with Imam Shamshad," a weekly radio program on KCAA 1050 AM.
"We are sending this message to each and everyone here in this area," Shamshad said. "The purpose is to bring communities together to understand and respect each other regardless that we have some differences. These differences should not stand in our way of respecting each other."
Nasir has strongly condemned the attempted bombing in New York City. A Pakistan-born man on May 3 was arrested after rigging a sport-utility vehicle with a homemade device in an attempt to explode in Times Square on May 1. Faisal Shahzad was taken into custody, just before a flight he boarded was to leave for Dubai.
"Islam teaches peace and commands Muslims to follow the law of the land and be loyal to the land they live in because this is what the founder of Islam, the Prophet Muhammad, taught - that love for one's country is a part of one's Faith as a Muslim," he said.
The Ahmadiyya sect believes their founder - the 19th-century Indian-born Muslim cleric Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad - to be the messiah mentioned in the Quran. Because the Ahmadiyya sect recognizes and follows different beliefs than other Islamic groups, its members in parts of the world have been persecuted by some Orthodox Muslims.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim community has members in nearly 200 nations and conducts missionary work in many of those countries.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim community mosque in Chino is at 11941 Ramona Ave. The 10,000-square-foot mosque and its surrounding complex - which cover five acres - is the largest in the southwestern United States for the Ahmadiyya community.
For more information on the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, visit www.alislam.org or call 1-800-WHY-ISLAM.