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Young Muslims try to show others Islam urges peace

A group of Muslim youths held a peace rally Sunday on Boston Common to ask people to seek a better understanding of the peaceful aspects of their religion and culture.

Photos by Jessica Rinaldi For The Boston Globe

A group of Muslim youths held a peace rally Sunday on Boston Common to ask people to seek a better understanding of the peaceful aspects of their religion and culture.

About 25 young Muslims rallied in the Boston Common Sunday afternoon in an effort to protect their religion from what they said are misperceptions stemming from violent acts others have committed in the name of Islam.

“We’re just saying what Islam is and what Islam is not,” said Hanad Duale, one of six Muslims who organized the rally. “We’re trying to educate the public, that probably doesn’t know more that what they’ve heard from media and from propaganda.”

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The rally was organized by four women and two men who wanted to respond to what they felt were attacks on their culture and religion after the Boston Marathon bombings, in which two Muslim brothers allegedly killed three people and injured more than 260 in April, and the killing in May of a British soldier, Lee Rigby, allegedly by two Muslim men, in London.

Duale said he and his friends gathered about $350 for a permit and audio equipment themselves, then spread the word to other friends and acquaintances.

During the rally, one man held up a copy of the Koran, the Muslim holy book. Others held signs with sayings such as, “Muslims for Peace, Muslims for Love,” and “Judge Others Not By Their Faith But By The Content Of Their Character.”

Najma Abdullahi, 24, a scientific recruiter who lives in Waltham, said she came to support her sister Naima Abdullahi, one of the organizers.

“It’s like a crash course for people who walk by, people who wouldn’t normally associate themselves with this [Islam],” said Najma Abdullahi, wearing a blue hijab, or headscarf, and bright yellow pants. “At this point in time, I feel like everyone has their own understanding or stereotype and whatnot. Maybe they can break those down or listen.”

Her favorite Koran verses ‘have been all verses that I’ve been living my life based on.’

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Abdullahi said she doubted those with strong feelings against Islam would see the rally and change their minds, but hoped people could learn more about her religion.

As Najma Abdullahi stood in a line with about 20 other people, holding a sign that said “Islam Teaches Me Peace,” Naima Abdullihi, 23, of Cambridge, spoke about some of her favorite Koran verses that promote peacefulness.

“They’ve been all verses that I’ve been living my life based on,” Naima Abdullihi said.

Gisela Tscheke of Melrose watched some of the rally with a friend as they waited for her family members, visiting from Germany, to go sightseeing.

“I never thought every Muslim is a terrorist but I know it happens, so it [the rally] might be necessary and important,” Tscheke said.

Tscheke said she hoped the group could improve people’s perceptions of Muslims, but doubted they could.

“Most people just walk by,” Tscheke said. “But still, it’s good to see. When we see the women covered in the clothing and the men [in traditional garb], and they don’t do dangerous things, maybe this alone helps. But I’m not sure. I don’t know.”

Gal Tziperman Lotan can be reached at gal.lotan@globe.com.
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