Local Muslims celebrate faith and country

EDMONDS — The group of marchers in the July 4 parade conveyed a clear message with T-shirts and banners.

“Muslims for Loyalty.”

“Muslims for Peace.”

“Love of one’s country of residence is part of faith.”

For the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, participating in An Edmonds Kind of 4th, the city’s Independence Day parade, has become a tradition for three years running.

About 50 members walked the parade route under a dazzling sun this year, amidst the procession of floats, cheer squads, fire trucks and martial arts schools. Men wearing T-shirts proclaiming their pride in Islam and the United States handed out flags to spectators, while hijab-clad women held a large Star Spangled Banner. Children waved from the back of a pickup.

“We enjoy the freedom of this country and the liberty of this country,” said Iman Zafar Sarwar a week before the parade at the group’s Lynnwood mosque.

Sarwar, an Ahmadi missionary assigned to Northwest, recited the community’s slogan: “Love for all, hatred for none.”

They weren’t the only local Muslims showcasing their patriotism July 4. More than 40 members of the Pacific Islamic Community and Cultural Services took part in festivities in Bothell.

Ata Karim, an Ahmadiyya community member who lives in the Picnic Point area, explained why he thinks it’s important for Muslims to communicate with people who aren’t familiar with Islam.

“That tends to be the burden that most minority communities have, and since 9/11, there has been an additional burden on Muslims about our loyalty and our patriotism,” he said.

“It doesn’t bother us,” continued Karim, a community college administrator. “It does motivate us … to make sure the true teachings of the religion are shared.”

Reactions during the parade, Karim said, have been “resoundingly positive.”

Irfan Chaudhry, president of the community’s Seattle chapter, said the participants would have been out demonstrating their patriotism, regardless of what the religious community had planned.

“Even if we didn’t feel we had to express ourselves, we would want to,” Chaudhry said. “We’re celebrating.”

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s Seattle chapter is one of 75 in the United States. They’re active in the community, organizing blood drives and interfaith dialogues.

They welcome everyone to their Lynnwood mosque, where about 350 people worship. Prayer services there are tight, and they’re planning to move soon to a new building.

As Ahmadi Muslims, they differ from the largest denominations of Islam, Sunni and Shia, in that they believe in a Mahdi, or Messiah, Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. Ahmad founded their movement in India in 1889.

While Ahmadis consider themselves reformers within the Islamic tradition, they oftenhave suffered persecution from other Muslims, particularly in Pakistan where they have the most members.

This year, July 4 fell during Ramadan, Islam’s holy month, which is observed with daily fasting from sunrise to sunset. A week before the parade, worshippers lined up at nightfall outside the Ahmadiyya mosque to enjoy a spicy buffet of chickpeas, goat, chicken, yoghurt and naan.

Ramadan started June 18 and is set to end on Friday. Muslims willmark the end of Ramadan with a feast called Eid-ul-Fitr on July 18.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, nhaglund@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @NWhaglund.

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