Imam says peace the true Islam

When a Vernon Imam says terrorists don't represent the true Islam, he may raise eyebrows.

Not for what he says. But for what he looks like, or more correctly – what he doesn't look like.

Muhammed William, Imam at the Vernon mosque, is a Caucasian, born and bred B.C. boy who converted to Islam as an adult. He says recent global attacks and public reaction to them prompted him to speak out about Islam's peaceful nature.

Born and raised in Enderby, William is married, in love, expecting his first child and a devout Muslim. After converting to Islam, he now works with his in-laws to run the Vernon mosque as interim Imam or prayer leader.

William contacted Castanet following a Jan. 9 article attracted less than respectful reader comments. He felt many of the comments showed a lack of understanding in his faith. One he says saved him from a life of poor choices.

“For me, as a born non-Muslim, I know both sides of the coin. For people who are looking for it from the outside and also for people who are on the inside, you know it is very disheartening to see the comments.... It was very disheartening for myself and my wife,” he said.

Some comments posted by readers questioned the teachings of the prophet Muhammed and point to the faith as the problem behind terrorist acts.

“Islam itself is a religion of peace,” defends William. “I know you've probably heard that before, but it gets mixed up along the way. So, when you see these things take place, let's call it what it is. These people are murderers, they are not anything more or anything less. You can call them a Muslim, you can call them a Christian, a Jew, a Buddhist or an Atheist, but a crime is a crime and the perpetrator should be labelled as such.”

He says the whole concept of Islam is being misconstrued by the media and contorted by those who use it as justification for their horrific crimes.

“For us, it is completely against Islam, completely forbidden for me to harm anyone, a human being, an animal, the environment. Islam is a complete way of life that encompasses from the time I wake up to the time I go to sleep how I can live my life to be successful, to be happy, to be peaceful with myself, my family and my community both Muslim or non-Muslim.”

William says when terrorist attacks occur, perpetrators have been instantly labelled as Islamic extremists, but he says the words Islam and extremism do not go together.

“If you look into the life of the prophet Muhammad, may peace be upon him, you will be shocked, because it is completely against everything that you see going on in the Muslim world. It is against the violence, it is against oppression, it is against corruption, it is against all of those things. 

"He said do not be extreme in your religion, in your worship. Islam teaches you to live in the world as if you are a traveller, meaning you are only here for a moment, so live it the best you can, don't step on others' feet, don't hurt anyone else, treat others how you want to be treated.”

Which is why, he says, it is hard for many Muslims when Islam or the prophet is criticized in satirical pieces.

“You know, when someone makes a mockery of our mother, we would be very offended. If they are making a mockery of our mother and posting it on the front of a million magazines for the world to see, we have the right to be upset. I would be upset, you would be upset, everyone would be upset,” he explains. “But, Muslims need to understand how he would react because the way some are reacting is completely wrong, we don't react with violence, that is not the Islamic way.”

William has been practicing Muslim for about six years and while fellow Coldstream Muslim Iftkhar Ahmed said he feels mistreatment by some, William says people in the Okanagan are wonderful.

“I have never had a problem. I mean this is how I go to the grocery store (referring to his attire), this is how I get my mail, I am proud to be who I am,” he says. “Everywhere you go, there is going to be good and there is going to be the bad. What we need to do as human beings is focus on the good, don't push everybody into the same cookie cutter because we are not the same."

William welcomes anyone who has any questions, concerns or fears about Islam to email him at [email protected].

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