PARTICK Burgh Hall hosted 250 people from all backgrounds for the belated Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Glasgow New Year Dinner where speakers addressed the recent Charlie Hebdo and Pakistan school attacks.
WE may be well into 2015 but there was a New Year celebration with a difference at the weekend that brought together 250 people from all corners of the community.
Partick Burgh Hall hosted the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Glasgow New Year Dinner on Sunday night attended by residents, politicians, police and others.
Although the date was set for some time, the event – now in its fifth year – was to be dedicated to the memory of those lost in the Glasgow bin lorry crash in December.
But the attack against a school in Pakistan and then the murders in Paris earlier this month brought a fresh need for more dialogue and understanding in the community.
Now it has emerged that German anti-Islamic Pegida visited Glasgow last week with plans to stage a demonstration after large marches have been held in recent weeks in Dresden.
In a sign of unity, Imam Ataul Mujeeb Rashed traveled from London to address the Glasgow dinner on Sunday alongside Pierre-Alain Coffinier, French Consul General from Edinburgh to denounce the recent attacks and promote peaceful dialogue.
Mr Rashed said Islam does not permit a person to take the law into their own hands, “under any circumstances” and condemned the Paris attacks “absolutely”. But he added that the media should not mock religions and “it is never right to provoke the religious feelings/sentiments of any religious person”.
He told Glasgow Now: “There was attentive listening and thought-provoking questions. Many people don’t have full knowledge of Islam. Islam does not promote violence – people use the name of God for their own purposes.
“The killing [in Paris] was a big crime. Defaming Islam is also a crime. That’s a struggle.
“I thought tonight was a good opportunity. I was very impressed by the attention that was paid tonight. I could tell they were all ears.”
He added: “Understanding is a very long process – step by step, inch by inch. We are moving in the right direction. Every time I’m in Scotland, it’s a very good audience.”
Display panels around the hall explained the life and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad and gift bags were handed out with books and pamphlets about Islam.
A question and answer session before the dinner was described as “forthright”.
Mr Coffinier said the Paris attacks should not be tolerated or thought of as being committed in the name of Islam.
He said: “We are grateful to the authorities of the UK and Scotland for having shown us solidarity.
“France is well known as a secular state. That does not mean it is a state that has nothing to do with religion. France protects all religions and the right for everyone to express themselves.
“These attacks have strained relations between communities – there needs to be more understanding, more talk.
“The questions asked of the Imam were some of the fears and questions we have in France. We have to understand. There are still challenges ahead.”
Chief Inspector Simon Midgley, area commander for Glasgow west end, said they always receive a warm and genuine welcome at the events.
He said: “Everyone is the same. It’s a natural reaction to be suspicious of the unknown or unfamiliar and the only way to break down suspicion is with events like this.”
Amongst the guests in the crowd was Mark Kirkland, past district manager of District 29 of the Orange Order, who are based near the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s Bait-ur-Rahman Mosque in the west end.
He said the evening had been “tremendous” and that it was very humbling when listening to what happened in France this month.
“After the Paris attacks, people would have questions they would want answered.
“People are coming away from tonight with more understanding and respect. This is why we always want new people coming in.”