Tired of having the television media paint a skewed picture of Islam, the global Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is taking its message of peace straight to the American people.
As part of its nationwide "Muslims for Peace" campaign, the oldest Muslim-American organization in the United States has covered 100 buses with signs promoting peace.
Saturday, in Waukegan, group members plastered signs on a passenger van bearing the Ahmadiyya movement's motto, "Love for all. Hatred for none," and distributed 500 to 700 fliers at public places.
They stressed the message that the fundamental teachings of Islam have nothing to do with violence, terrorism or any act of aggression to promote religion, said Junayd Latif, outreach coordinator for the group's Zion chapter.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is a growing worldwide movement within Islam founded in Qadian, India in 1889 by Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, whom believers consider the messiah as foretold by Prophet Muhammad. It espouses millions of members in more than 195 countries. The Zion chapter has about 200 members.
"What we're trying to do is change the image of Islam in America," Latif said. "People don't think that there's a real moderate voice for Islam out there. Instead of relying on TV media to cover what moderate Muslims are really about, we took it upon ourselves to go into the community and meet with our community members and neighbors."
Latif said the image of Islam projected by American media and in the eyes of the public has gradually gotten worse over the last 30 years, and especially since Sept. 11, 2001.
"We are trying to put a face to those moderate Muslims that everyone is looking for," he said.
Reaction to the campaign has been mixed, but positive overall. Saturday's canvassing was the group's fifth such event in the area. So far, they have spread the word from Racine, Wis., to North Chicago, at times going door-to-door in some communities.
"A lot of people are very appreciative that Muslims have come out and (are) connecting with them in their homes," Latif said.
The group plans to do similar educational campaigns in Gurnee and Lindenhurst, he added.
"Our goal is to eventually hit every community in Lake County," Latif said. "This is a coordinated effort that's worldwide that is changing the face if Islam."