WHEN six intoxicated men were caught breaking into a Melbourne mosque, Syed Wadood Janud pleaded with police to drop the charges so he could invite them to lunch.
This is just one example of how the new Stockleigh Bait-Ul-Masroor Mosque imam strives to bridge the divide between hostile Islam critics and the Ahmadiyya Muslim community.
“It so happened that when police pressed charges, we said instead of pressing charges is it possible to organise a lunch where those individuals can come and sit down at the mosque and just break bread,” he said.
“The police liked the idea and contacted them, they were one big family and they came into the mosque with a lot of reservations, but just by breaking bread together and having that conversation and dialogue, they became friends of the community.
“They came in and saw we speak fluent English, that we are open and that we embraced them.”
As former imam of the Ahmadiyya community in Melbourne and Tasmania, Imam Janud replaced Ahmed Nadeem as the Queensland and Northern Territory Imam this month.
Imam Janud studied comparative religion in Canada and has completed missionary aid work globally, including a long stint at Liberia in West Africa.
He said inter-religious dialogue was a powerful way of highlighting what unites rather than divides Muslims from the broader community.
“One of the most amazing things I have experienced and learned was the coming together of the greater community,” he said.
“Whether you are Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, there are far more commonalities between these faiths than differences.
“Through having open doors and communication you can bridge these gaps and this is something we hope to do in the near future with Logan council and the Jimboomba community.”
Imam Janud said the mosque was a place of worship for all religions and said anyone was welcome to come as long as they were respectful.
“Respect doesn’t mean you have to cover your head or wear certain kinds of clothing. When you go to a church you have a certain respect for that place as a house of god, similarly, we expect people to have a general respect for the mosque as well,” he said.
“All people have to do is google us and find our contact numbers and give us a ring. You will find people in this mosque are some of the most hospitable people you will come across.
“A mosque should not be a source of disunity in the community, a mosque is a place where we bring people together regardless of faith.”
Ahmadiyya Muslims belong to a sect of Islam believing Indian born Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was the prophesied messiah of their religion.