Atif Ahmed Zahid, Regional Missionary, South Australia
In the past few months, the Covid-19 restrictions have eased in South Australia. As a result, Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya Adelaide has started a special campaign to spread the peaceful message of Islam in regional towns by holding Quran exhibitions and bookstalls.
In July 2021, a group of seven members of Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya visited the town of Millicent, which is around 450km away from Adelaide and the population of this town is around 4700 although the larger area of Millicent is made up of 13 communities with a population of around 12,500.
The members of the Jamaat held a meeting with the mayor of the town, Honourable Des Noll and presented him a copy of the Holy Quran along with some other Jamaat literature.
The mayor was very welcoming and passionate in working together. During the meeting, it was decided that the members of the Jamaat will organise a Quran exhibition in the town at a later date. In mid-July once again the members visited the town to finalise all arrangements including date, venue, etc.
The programme was promoted through various mediums including print and social media. 1000 flyers were distributed among the local residents.
A regional newspaper of the area SE Voice published the interview of the missionary, Atif Ahmad Zahid Sahib, along with the flyer of the exhibition. The newspaper has a readership of around 7,000 and alhamdulillah, it gave a major boost to the campaign.
On 30 August 2021, a day before the exhibition, a group of ten members of Jamaat Adelaide South travelled to the town of Millicent. This journey started from Masjid Noor after silent prayer.
After five hours of travelling, members reached Millicent. The next morning they got up early to set up the exhibition in the library. At 11am, the exhibition was officially inaugurated by the Mayor of the town, Honourable Des Noll. In the opening remarks, the mayor said:
“Our community has been very rewarded this afternoon in working with the Muslim community, in the wattle range council area. We appreciate the support we have been able to give them and welcome them into our community. We are richer for the involvement of our Muslim community. So thank you very much.”
On the day of the exhibition, the translation of the Holy Quran in 28 different languages along with the variety of books such as Life of Muhammad, The Philosophy of the teachings of Islam, World Crisis and the Pathway to Peace and Islam’s Response to Contemporary Issues, were displayed.
In pamphlets, Muslim for Peace, Muslims for Loyalty, Muhammadin Bible, and Messiah has come were displayed.
Paintings of the verses of the Holy Quran written in Islamic calligraphy were also displayed.
The exhibition attracted a lot of interest from the general public. Around 150 people from different parts of the town came to see the exhibition. They had a look around and were very impressed with all the information that was displayed. Detailed discussions were held with many of them about the peaceful teachings of Islam.
A new feature of calligraphy was introduced in this exhibition. People were provided with the opportunity to have their names written in Arabic.
Alhamdulillah, it was a very successful experiment and many people admired the art of Islamic calligraphy.
The final session of the exhibition was the presentation and question and session. At 2 pm, the session started with a recitation from the Holy Quran. A presentation on Islam Ahmadiyyat was presented by Atif Ahmad Zahid Sahib, followed by a question and answer session. Many people asked questions about Islam which were answered in detail.
The topics of these questions included: The status of women in Islam, freedom of religion in Islam, the difference between Islam and Christianity, the current situation of Islamic countries and how Islam can establish peace in the world. Three copies of the Holy Quran and a total of 33 books were distributed at the bookstall.
On the same day, a small group of members of the Jamaat distributed 1164 pamphlets in local streets. As per the tradition of Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya, refreshments were served throughout the day to the guests.
Below are some comments from the people who visited the exhibition.
Virginia, a local resident said:
“Well, I think it is a wonderful initiative. I wish we had seen something like this years ago and through the years, it is something that should be repeated very often because most of us know very little or anything at all about Islam. And so much negative press is perpetrated in the media. If people don’t read themselves, this is a wonderful way of learning something of the true meaning of Islam, and I wish that I had learnt about this earlier or read about it earlier.”
Kristine, another local resident expressed her views in the following words:
“It has been very informative and the young fellas who have been talking about the displays have been very helpful and giving very clear explanations about each of the different areas. The fact that it encompasses all people, a true interpretation of Islam. Whereas we in the West see this alienation between different groups of people […] you see so much violence yet this is so encompassing of all people. I really enjoyed it, I was really quite excited about seeing this because we have very few Muslim people in the lower south-east and most you don’t get to interact with them, and it is only by meeting that we break down prejudices.”
Raquel Mustillo, a journalist at a regional newspaper, said:
“It was very informative and particularly important in regional South Australia to hear directly from the Muslim community about what the Quran means to them.”
The exhibition received coverage from the media as well. A regional newspaper The Border Watch published a detailed report along with some statements of the missionary, and comments of the mayor about the exhibition.
At the end, members of the Jamaat set up a small exhibition in a section of the library, in which copies of the Holy Quran and books along with pamphlets are displayed. This exhibition will go on for a month. This small exhibition is mainly for those people who missed the main exhibition.